OGDEN — Sarah Saltwick’s play Of Myth and Mud explores the power of women in an assortment of vignettes based in world mythology. While independent of one another, these short scenes are connected through the experiences of Pandora (Cassidy Wixon), who begins the play by opening her legendary box.
At the start of the play, Pandora is very new to existence; she is unfamiliar with human interaction and has to learn to walk upright on her own two legs. As the play goes on, Pandora learns about humanity by seeing how different women react in different situations. Wixon plays the role with a wide-eyed innocence and impressive energy. Pandora stays on stage for the play’s duration, silently observing as each vignette unfolds. With her, the audience watches the little mermaid take her first steps, a dragon scorch the countryside, and a phoenix be reborn. Truth be told, though, there isn’t a lot actually happening in this show. It’s more poetry than drama, and while there are little spikes of action here and there, it’s more for show than anything else.
And there are some great things to show. Catherine Zublin‘s costumes alone are worth the price of admission. Elements of haute couture combine with flashes of current trends and generous amounts of character to hint at the mythical creatures being personified in each vignette. From the lily-shaped bursts of red on a dragon’s smoky skirt to Pandora’s earthy browns and the silvery glitter of a unicorn, each ensemble is a story unto itself. Zublin’s work is ably complemented by Karrie Freeman Randall’s lovely hair and make-up; exciting color choices and high concept designs made me forget that I was watching actors playing multiple roles.
When I entered the space—and the Val A. Browning Performing Arts Center is a beautiful complex in the first place—I was struck by the stark, stylized openness of Van Tinkham‘s set. It’s small and expansive at the same time. Pandora’s box is part of the set, large enough to hide any number of secrets. Jessica Greenberg‘s rich, subtle lighting, and Alex Thedell‘s vivid sound design point up dramatic moments without distracting from them.
There is an impressive cohesion to the design of this piece, and there are some wonderful moments in the show—thoughtful questions posed in beautiful, interesting stage pictures. One of the most successful was the presentation of Medusa (Alice Gittins) and her headful of snakes. I don’t know if this idea is written into the script or if was director Jennifer Kokai’s choice, but the cast includes an ensemble of five “movers” who assist with the scenes as they play out, as well as adding a layer of movement to the play overall (choreographed by Amanda Sowerby). In this instance, two of the movers became Medusa’s snakes, hissing and framing her face with their writhing fingers. It was a great visual image, and Alice Gittins’s portrayal was easily one of the best of the night.
My favorite moments involved strong storytelling, character interactions and inventive theatricality. To be honest, though, these pleasing moments were sparse and not frequent enough to support the evening. Unfortunately, there were a number of moments that were less satisfying. I was disappointed by a feeling of what I can only describe as sameness throughout the piece. The individual episodes began to feel similar and repetitious, and I lost interest in the story.
The majority of the scenes are monologues that wind on too long, abandoning action in favor of diatribe. Pandora’s childlike musings in between don’t help. Kokai and her talented cast are to be congratulated for their valiant struggle with a difficult script, making for an uneven experience that looks great but feels—off.
[gss-content_box]Of Myth and Mud plays nightly through November 16th in the Eccles Theater located on the campus of Weber State University. Tickets are $9-12. For more information visit browningcenter.org.[/gss-content_box]