Kent County Theatre Guild starts its season with "The Iliad, the Odyssey, and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less."
One seasoned director and five actors playing 83 characters will lead audiences through all of Greek mythology, “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad” in about the time it would take to watch a Disney movie.
This is no child’s play, though. Not when Hermes is a rapper wannabe and Aphrodite is more like a cast member of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
The Kent County Theatre Guild’s “The Iliad, the Odyssey, and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less” is a tough show, said director Chris Polo. There’s a monumentally huge prop list. The actors are playing upward of 10 characters each, and have to be able to differentiate between them. Just helping them remember who they’re going to be next once they step off stage is a challenge.
Polo has had some experience in this type of show, having directed “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” a mash up of the Bard’s works with more than a smattering of farcical humor tossed in.
“I loved that show, I loved working with my actors in that, working through the characterizations. And I find that I probably have a very silly point of view. I think I see things funny,” Polo said.
That’s good, because so do her cast members, including Necia Beck.
Beck is playing a stone tablet full of characters, including Achilles, Hercules, Artemis and Jane. Yes, Jane. Some of the characters are fictional and thrown in to move the story along, such as Exploititis a game show host type of character. For those who haven’t brushed up on their mythology since, oh, eighth grade or so, the show will remind them of the gods and goddesses and their claims to fame, with the actors’ own take on them.
“The nice thing about this is that you’ll see all of the characters that are familiar, that we remember, like Persephone and Hades and Poseidon and all of them,” Beck said. “It presents some of the lesser known characters in a fun way, so it does impart some other information.”
Beck said straight farces are a bit difficult, but in a good way.
“The nice thing about this, though, is it calls on your skills in comedy a little bit more because it’s less structure. So you have more opportunity to come up with stuff and we’ve all found ourselves doing that in rehearsal, and we’re cracking ourselves up,” she said.
Polo said watching the actors enjoy themselves is part of the fun for her.
“There’s nothing like seeing actors kind of blossom as they realize that they can take it pretty much any place that they want to,” she said. “The challenge for them has been how many different characters do I have in me? How many different personas can I have out and display that are distinctly different?”
Cast members Patti Gatto, Charlie Beck, Kevin Smith, Joanne Moran and Necia Beck have been doing a funny enough job that crew members haven’t wanted to leave while the cast is rehearsing.
Polo is confident they’ll keep the laughter going through the show’s run, partly due to the talented cast and crew making the wheels turn on and off stage. And if something does fall through, Beck said she’s still not too concerned.
“We have worked together so often that we’re very aware of each other on stage. We know that should something blow up, everybody up there is seasoned enough to pick it up and make it go and make it right,” she said.
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