By Heidi Masek email@example.com
• New version of an old story: NH Theater Project’s The Odyssey is the U.S. premiere of London playwright David Farr’s 2005 retelling of Homer’s epic. The show was tightly presented at the intimate West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth, Sunday, Nov. 12. The David Farr version is a very accessible version of Homer’s work. Farr references a modern-day government detention center, where Odysseus is held after he washes up on a foreign shore. Farr also uses the story to focus on the modern-day refugee whose country has been decimated but whom no other country wants to host.
Five of the actors in the six-person ensemble cast played more than one character. This is a physical show that requires lots of energy to stage. Blair Hundertmark, who directed and also plays Odysseus, has the luxury of portraying only one character, but was also appearing in Oedipus Rex with Manchester’s New Art Theatre – plenty of heavy lines to memorize.
Violinist Sam Goodall’s performance of the gypsy-influenced score arranged for NH Theatre Project by Agnes Charlesworth was particularly effective in setting atmosphere.
While singing during a party scene, the actors try to engage the audience as if they are sitting at the edge of the party, not around a stage. A short song by handmaidens of a goddess (mostly played by males) channeled Monty Python skits.
To stage The Odyssey, NH Theatre Project rearranged their black box stage so that the risers were used for the musicians instead of the audience and chairs surround the stage floor. Poles between the seats served to represent the masts and oars of a ship, making spectators very much a part of the show. The central prop was an ingenious table that could be lowered to represent drifting wreckage, raised to be used as a table in an interrogation room, or expanded to be used as a bed, among other reinventions. Ikea would be jealous.
For the $20 ticket price (two-for-one discount for students, seniors and starving artists) this professional show is an excellent value. The Odyssey continues through Nov. 26 at W.E.S.T. 959 Islington St., Portsmouth, 431-6644.
• Mob story: The Nashua Theatre Guild is at again with their murder mystery dinner theater “The Altos – Like the Sopranos, Only Lower,” written by David Landau with music and lyrics by Nikki Stern. See it Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Del Vaudo’s Restaurant, 112 W. Pearl St., Nashua. Dinner and show cost $40. Call 598-8007.