The ancient Greek tragedy “Prometheus Bound” by Aeschylus is given a memorable production through Sept. 18 at the Getty Villa amphitheater in Malibu, California.
First performed circa 450 B.C., the myth relates the story of titan god Prometheus, who disobeys King Zeus, ruler of the gods, by stealing fire, bringing it to humans enabling the advent of civilization.
The striking central element of this production is a mammoth steel wheel, 23-feet tall, that has been installed center stage in the outdoor theater. As envisioned by director Travis Preston and scenic designer Efren Delgadillo, Jr., this represents the remote mountaintop to which Prometheus is chained in the opening scene.
Zeus, the myth goes, wanted to destroy humans and to create a new race more to his liking. When he learns of the theft, enraged, he condemns Prometheus to his fate on Mount Olympus, at the furthest corner of the world. He is to be left there to suffer through eternity. This titan’s story has been retold through the ages. Indeed, there have been many movies with his name in the title.
This is the eighth summer production in the Villa’s Travis Preston amphitheater which is built to resemble ancient Greek theaters. This version of the play is from a newly-translated text by poet Joel Agee.
Ron Cephas Jones is peerless as Prometheus. His performance is one of endurance, strapped as he is throughout like Jesus on the cross. In these circumstances, he tells his story – why he opposed Zeus, why he saved humanity and brought them gifts of civilization. His performance finely tuned, Jones begins with quiet intensity. By the end, his voice booms with defiance, accentuated by the shattering score of Vinnie Golia and his group.
During the play, Prometheus is visited by emissaries from Zeus–Oceanus (Joseph Kamal). A conniver, he says that he will plot for his release. Next, king’s messenger, Hermes (Michael Blackman) urges Prometheus to plead for freedom. Emphatically, he denies their help.
Also coming to the mountain is Io (Mirjana Jokovic), estranged wife of Zeus, lamenting her plight. She is doomed to wander the netherworld. Here, Prometheus gives a spooky description of this eerie region.
In addition, standout support is given by the 12 women of the chorus, all from Cal Arts Center for New Performance. As choreographed by Mira Kingsley, they converse with the hero, sing the ancient ballads and lamentations and acrobatically climb up thorough the massive wheel.
As well, those attending the play should plan on visiting the Villa Museum to see the antiquities display. Over 1,200 works in galleries are organized by theme, making the layout very viewer-friendly. For instance, art and sculpture dealing with mythological heroes are grouped together.
“Prometheus Bound” runs Thursdays through Sundays.
For tickets and information: (310) 440-7300; www.getty.edu
Two educational spaces will offer alternative ways to engage with art. The Family Forum, a hands-on discovery room for families, features activities that encourage shared learning experiences, while another interactive installation, the TimeScape Room, focuses on time, place, and artistic style in the ancient Mediterranean.
Admission is free. The center is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. advanced timed tickets are required… Call 310-440-7300 for reservations and information. Additional information is available on the Getty Web site at www.getty.edu.
Larry Taylor’s Bio: Larry worked in newspaper industry for 15 years after gtraduating with a journalim degree. In 1973 he went into teaching media at Cal. State Fullerton and Fullerton Colleges in Southern California. In 2000, he retired and devoted himself to theater reviews and travel writing.