An Odyssey to Illumination with Counter-Balance Theater

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Courtesy of UCI Illuminations

 

Counter-Balance Theater, a theater group under the direction of UCI professor Annie Loui, performed their take on Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the classic Homer epic, “The Odyssey,” at the Claire Trevor Theater last Thursday night.

The UCI-based theater’s mission statement is “[to] construct physical theater based on great literature” and they stayed true to that every step of the way.

Kicking off the year’s lineup of Illuminations events (the Chancellor’s arts-based initiative), the Odyssey tells us the story of Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. The narrative follows his journey, which is an arduous and difficult one, with countless obstacles and hardships for Odysseus.

The cast consisted of seven actors who were all dressed in black attire. A minimalist production, the play had few props and relied solely on the movements and bodies of the actors. The actors depicted the ocean, the waves, the ship, the sails, the winds, the forests, the trees and yes, even the Cyclops from ancient Greek mythology.

With the actors constantly switching roles from animate to inanimate objects and moving around the stage, the play keeps you rapt with attention throughout its one hour duration.

This performance by Counter-Balance theater took its audience on the journey with Odysseus and showed them the struggles that he faced every step of the way. The physical and mental exhaustion he must have felt through this journey, especially towards the end, where he rowed his boat for a good five minutes, comes across very strongly. Some notable moments are when Poseidon sends a huge wave that destroys the boat and the actors roll and throw themselves on stage, and when Odysseus goes through a thick and dangerous forest to rescue his comrades.

The physicality of this play is what captivated me the most, with few words said and much more done. Actions indeed did speak louder than words in this performance.

If you’re in the mood for a solid performance involving a dynamic and physical take on Homer’s Odyssey and a power-packed performance that gives you goosebumps, then this show is for you.