Tuesday, May 5, 2009

“The Golden Harp”–something for everyone

B Street photo

Since ancient times critics have demanded that poets, including playwrights, teach readers and audiences while delighting them. And B Street Theatre delivers wisdom with its fun in the finale of this season’s Family Series. For adults as well as children, the show is a home-grown product, a musical created and performed by B Street’s own family of professionals.

For the young (as well as for some of the not-so-young), the play mines Greek mythology, bringing to life gods and goddesses, as well as some mortals, zombies and a three-headed dog named Cerberus. Along with this sample out of the sources of our culture, we get a lesson in the art of negotiation, compromise, win-win accommodations that make happy families and nations possible.

Performed in the B-2 space, the action takes place on a spare stage, with two classic columns framing a drop that changes color to suggest each scene. The first things we see are a book of myths next to a box for the autographs of Zeus. The first scene is a confrontation among the three existing gods. Along with Zeus, god of the heavens, there is Poseidon, god of the sea, and Haides, an unemployed deity with nothing left to rule.

So our first lesson in political accommodation comes about when Haides is named god of the underworld—as well as god of heavy metal, which in his case is made into a big guitar. But wait—he doesn’t have a queen. This problem, though, is resolved when Persephone, goddess of spring, is recruited, albeit unenthusiastically, for that office. Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, she’d been in the doghouse after falling for Narcissus, so handsome that he loved only himself.

Despite Demeter’s lack of support, Zeus resolves the issue by making Persephone Haides’ queen of the underworld and heavy metal. The big problem is that she can’t go home and Mom can’t visit her. But everything works out happily after a few battles that include mortals and zombies. In the end we learn an important lesson about nature, and how we can’t have spring all year long.

The playwright is Sacramento’s Greg Alexander, who also directs. He has a distinguished career that, along with playwriting, also includes acting in theaters and on television. He is also co-composer with Noah Agruss, a composer for a variety of media and for five years the staff composer for B Street. The contemporary score includes the catchy “Zombie boogie.”

Alexander and Agruss are well served by a cast of seasoned performers, including Danielle Monė Truitt as Persephone; Rick Kleber as Haides; Michael Stevenson as Zeus, Narcissus and Cerberus; John Lamb as Poseidon, Mortal #1 and Zombie; Amanda Stephen as Demeter, Echo and Zombie; and Jalene Goodwin as Helios, Amphitrite, Mortal #2 and Zombie.

So we see that there is no shortage of zombies on Olympus.

Kat Bayley created magical costumes, especially for the giant three-headed Cerberus, and Ron Madonia’s deft lighting effects set the mood.

“The Golden Harp” continues through May 31 at 2727 B Street, Sacramento, behind Stanford Park Baseball field at 27th and C Streets. Performances are every Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 for children under 18, $20 for adults. Call the box office at (916) 443-5300. Also see http://www.bstreettheatre.org/go/bstreet/index.cfm.

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