Beppie Blankert | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Conflating Homer's Odyssey and James Joyce's Ulysses, Dutch choreographer Beppie Blankert develops a feminist take on the legend in her evening-length dance-theater piece. Penelope, Odysseus's wife, is the central character: what guides this version is her perspective on her husband's travels--as she says early on, this is "the story of Odysseus's women." Actress Dawn Mastin first plays Penelope, then Molly Bloom; both characters speak with an Irish accent. The work is set outdoors, on a waterfront (as it has been in past productions), and Blankert uses a real dinghy and the model of a ship, complete with sails, to suggest both the mobility and the transitoriness of Odysseus's life. While he moves busily from here to there, Penelope/Molly is seated in magisterial fashion on a motionless barge covered by a giant red skirt; seeming small and insignificant, he's a worker to her queen bee. Two dancers represent Odysseus's conquests (if you want to call them that): Calypso, Circe, the sirens, and Nausicaa. Blankert's choreography creates distinct personalities for the women--and it's very erotic, at least judging by the videotape. (A caveat: the videographer was able to shoot close-up, getting a point of view on the dancing the audience probably won't have.) It was a stroke of genius to interweave Molly's monologue at the end of Ulysses with the seduction sections: John Taylor is a magnificently sexy Odysseus, and all his interactions with the women are colored by Molly's wonderfully accepting worldview, her polymorphous perverse sexuality. Louis Andriessen's original vocal music is performed live by four Chicago-based singers. Wolf Point, Chicago River and Orleans, 312-397-4010. Opens Wednesday, May 14, 8 PM. Through May 18: Thursday-Sunday, 8 PM. $22. Note: In case of heavy rain, the performance will be canceled; call 312-397-4010 for information. Also, Blankert will host a discussion after the Wednesday show and offer a choreography workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art (sponsoring this event), 220 E. Chicago, Saturday, May 17, 3-6 PM; $15, $10 with Odyssey ticket.

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