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Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenIdomeneus at Sideshow Theatre Company

Idomeneus at Sideshow Theatre Company | Theater review

The king of Crete can’t escape his fate in this engrossing meditation on stories and their telling.


German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s 2009 work retells—and retells, and retells—the tale of the Cretan king and ally of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Idomeneus’ fleet was beset by storms on its trip home following the war; the king was able to save himself and the men of his own ship by pledging to sacrifice the first living thing he saw on Crete—which turned out to be his own son, Idamante. But written accounts of the story, from Homer to Mozart, vary wildly in their details.

Schimmelpfennig embraces all versions. His unruly take treats the variations like diverging branches on a time line, letting one play out before backtracking to explore another option; lines are parceled out in groups and spoken chorally.

The script’s loose structure affords a great deal of leeway in production, and director Jonathan L. Green and Sideshow’s creative team cook up a stylishly stylized U.S. premiere. A diverse cast of 15, smartly outfitted by costume designer Kristin DeiTos in fashions suggesting any era and none, gracefully shares duties in recounting Idomeneus’ variegated but seemingly unavoidable tragedy. From the group, individuals begin to emerge with major characters like Idomante (Joey deBettencourt), his mother Meda (Susaan Jamshidi) and Idomeneus himself (a haunted Cody Proctor); minor players, such as a recurring fisherman, might be represented by a trio of actors. Proctor’s Idomeneus grows increasingly isolated from the accusatory chorus. He eventually finds himself trapped literally and figuratively on scenic designer Joe Schermoly’s sandy beach, cleverly dwarfed by the wooden wave that rises over it and evocatively lit by Mac Vaughey. In Green’s sensitive staging, Schimmelpfennig’s hour-long play becomes an engrossing meditation on fate: that which we can control, and that which can’t be escaped.

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