But then again, he may not; the adaptation by Yale University professor Leon Katz hardly turns The Odyssey into Hamlet. In Katz's hands, Homer's epic about the wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus after the Trojan War is still very much a narrative poem, much of it even recited by narrators, and plays like one. The narrators set up a scene and tell what is going to happen; the actors then act it out.
Such a format does not generate much dramatic force or lend itself to outstanding performances, and the Temple production has neither. It is a progression of deliberately stagy scenes, peopled by largely symbolic, lifeless characters played by self-conscious performers uneasy with Katz's formal, poetic approach to the material.
Without much assistance from the playwright to help him develop his character, the actor portraying Odysseus, the play's dominant character, needs more stage presence than Daniel Olmstead can muster. Olmstead's Odysseus does become more interesting in the second act, when the hero returns to his palace and the characters become more interactive - rather than merely reacting to the series of perils that dominate the first act. This more human thrust to the play, however, comes too late to affect an audience already well conditioned to expect the next technically extravagant scene.
Daniel P. Boylen's nicely designed props and imaginative staging are more something to look at than an effective adjunct to the action. The large Cyclops head, for instance, is carried on stage by three actresses dressed in black, who are perfectly visible as they manipulate strings attached to it. When the head gobbles down two dolls representing Odysseus' men, the audience laughs at a scene that the reader of the poem finds horrible.
The six-headed Scylla that attacks the ship is another visibly manipulated puppet, more interesting to watch for the way it works than for its dramatic impact. Boylen's Land of the Dead is a wonderfully gloomy, smoky place, peopled by robed zombies thirsting after the blood (represented by red ribbons) that flows from a ram sacrificed by Odysseus.
The fight scene staged by Payson Burt near the conclusion of the play is long, inventively mounted and well performed by a group of carefully schooled actors. More dance than fight, the battle provides an appropriately visual, energetic ending to an active, hey-look-at-this production.
Adapted by Leon Katz and directed by Joe Leonardo, settings and lighting by Daniel P. Boylen, costumes by Neil Bierbower, score by Jeff Cain. Presented by Temple University Theater at Tomlinson Theater, 13th and Norris Streets. Ends May 2.
Storytellers - Marc Horwitz, Robert Parsons, Guy Wagner
Odysseus - Daniel Olmstead
Telemachus - Floyd Rumohr
Antinous - Jeff Holbrook
Circe - Maria Osborn
Athena - Sharon Dane
Zeus - Christopher Wolfe