By KAREN SHADE, 4/15/2006
'Cyclops' is an amusing romp through Greek myth
Low-tech meets Greek drama with magically mythic results in Midwestern Theater Troupe's "The Cyclops," a shadow puppet feature playing at the Nightingale Theater.
The characters and stage might be cut from cardboard, but when the house lights go out, you get an astonishing picture of Silenus, a satyr, walking (yes, really walking) out of a cave to introduce us to this strange world.
Silenus is the dainty-hooved father of a group of satyrs (half-goat creatures serving the god of wine, Dionysus) trapped on an island inhabited by the dangerous Cyclops. The satyrs serve the one-eyed giant Polyphemus, tending his sheep by day and trapped in his cave at night.
When a certain Greek named Odysseus and his soldiers sail to the island, the wine-starved satyrs see a means to escape back to a life of leisurely debauchery. What unfolds is familiar to anyone who knows Homer's "The Odyssey," but Euripides deviates enough to turn the gory episode into a playful, naughty adventure with a satiric jab at tragedy.
John Cruncleton's animated puppets are visually remarkable. Satyrs dance with lyres and flutes and even the sheep seem to frolic. Most of the puppeteers provide some nice, full-bodied vocals recalling the acoustical at tributes of Greek theater.
With its bawdy humor, "The Cyclops" should be more low-brow than it actually seems, but you cannot ignore the reverence for centuries of artistic tradition floating about the Nightingale.
Music places you in an ancient time, and the satyrs' chants are set to live string and percussion music, evoking a sense of both culture and myth.
Amy Wilson also keeps a degree of old-world translation in her own, but dots it with enough modern colloquialisms to keep it fun.
"The Cyclops" certainly is not a field outing for your high school English class, but for the mature audience, it's a 45-minute adventure-romp that oddly amuses.
The Nightingale Theater is located at 1416 E. Fourth St.
"The Cyclops" continues at 7 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Friday, and 7 and 8 p.m. April 22. An after-show discussion with Cruncleton and Wilson is scheduled for Friday. For reservations, call 583-8487 [As of February 2007, 633-8666].