Tuesday, October 30, 2012

a pair of Penelopes


If you're reading through the last books of the Odyssey and growing increasingly peeved regarding the misbehavior of the Suitors, you may like dipping into Enda Walsh's play Penelope (2010). I haven't seen it, but I'm intrigued by the reviews. (See the OGCMA slide for links.) It's advantageous that the face for the play's adverts is the grey-eyed model in the swimcap — presumably Penelope — and NOT the "four untoned [Suitors] of varying ages killing time in bathrobes and Speedos"! Reportedly, the play features a lot of grilling. You know, cooking over the Weber. That kind of barbie. And the metaphor of "dead meat" in the anticipation of an Odyssean nostos ripens throughout the play; perhaps something like Waiting for Odysseus?  —— With Enda [sic: he's a guy] Walsh's interview and a couple of published reviews, the OGCMA slide ought to give anybody interested in writing about this apparently interesting adaptation of the Penelope myth a headstart down the path of research.

Surely Ellen McLaughlin's play of the same name, which premiered last Spring (april 2012), is going to make a different sort of point altogether. In an interview, McLaughlin admits that her approach to Odysseus-and-Penelope is formed by the modern phenomenon of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Such considerations intensify that drama that threatens to bring Odysseus' return to failure — for, what if after all the years, Penelope refuses to take her vagrant husband back?
   Indeed, a woman in my own class last year, herself the wife of an Afghanistan veteran, told me that when the husband goes away for military service, he is truly a different man upon his return.He comes back as a "stranger with the face of the man I loved."
   So, with the materials offered by the Triangle Arts organization, one can begin exploring this intriguing new treatment of the Penelope myth. Perhaps the OGCMA slide can help, also.

Students planning to write a Reception Paper will, of course, wish to treat only one or the other of these plays as topic. The prompt calls for you to "identify a [single] modern usage of a classical myth". Consider what it is that Walsh or McLaughlin gains by treating the story of Penelope in such clearly modern situations.

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