By Ian Rigg
We are all but puppets.
In an all-new translation of the Aeschylus classic by Nicholas Rudall, and with director Terry McCabe’s vision pulling the strings, City Lit Theatre’s phenomenal production of Prometheus Bound offers a fantastical portrait of a fallen god speaking to the subjects he suffered to save.
Liz Cooper’s lighting design conjures the primeval terror of Greek myth in tandem with Jeremy Hollis’s primordial set design. It’s an evocative sight and sparse deconstruction of the rock upon which an eagle came to feast.
Accompanied by an original score by Chicago composer Kingsley Day, and sang by a chorus of sea nymphs in sublime harmony (Casey Daniel, Lara Dohner, Jenna Fawcett, Sahara Glasener-Boles, Krista Leland, and Justine Raczy), the vision comes to life.
It is of course the whimsical designs of VonOrthal Puppets that bring the show to life. With only two characters played by human beings, these creations are a work of wonder unbound by human form, and add an otherworldly charm that elevates the piece to fantastical new heights. The intricate designs are doubly helped by a creative corps of puppeteers: Nate Buursma, Antora DeLong, Linsey Falls, Sarah Franzel and Maddy Low control the puppets as a matter of second nature, with an expressive grace and electric liveliness.
The booming and versatile voice of Charles Schoenherr serves as the voice of the tyrant Zeus, the reluctant captor Hephaestus, the pompous Oceanus and the sniveling Hermes. He is a deft commander of both gravitas and comedy.
Kat Evans brings a touch of comedy and tragedy to her time onstage. She has a compelling commitment not only to the heightened text, but also to her intense physical motion (Io of myth was transfigured into a cow by Zeus and cursed to perpetually swat away a stinging gadfly, and Evans does so literally her entire time onstage)
While it may be Atlas who bears the world upon his shoulders, it is Mark Pracht’s towering performance as Prometheus that carries the production with a rich, resonant voice. Without the physical ability to move, he moves the audience. He nails every note, especially with a spike nailed through his chest.
Pracht’s well-crafted Prometheus is a wounded god brimming with agony, sardonic wit, compassion, pride, regret and hope. A god cursed by binding, but also the curse of foresight. In the depths of his despair, he remains comforted and tormented by the knowledge that one day he shall be free, and that Zeus himself is but a puppet to the vicissitudes of fate. With wit and pathos upon his tongue and tragedy in his blood, Pracht’s captivating performance is not to be missed.
The astute artists of City Lit Theatre remain a timely and thoughtful resurrectionists of literary classics, Aeschylus’s ancient era lyricism rings true today, just as it has in every age. Because wherever there are tyrants who punish the spread of knowledge, hope and truth remain a flames that can never be extinguished.
City Lit presents “Prometheus Bound” through June 10 City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago. More information and details are available here.