Theater: “Black Odyssey” at CSC
Kudos to Marcus Gardley. The Obie-Award-winning playwright has reset the saga of Ulysses in modern-day Harlem in “Black Odyssey” a dramedy/musical/Shakespeare-in-the-Park-style miniature in previews at CSC.
Unlike James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” this version of the Odyssey is one that won’t have you scratching your head in bewilderment. Here, Ulysses Lincoln (Sean Boyce Johnson) is a veteran who serves in modern-day Afghanistan. After accidentally killing the son of Poseidon (renamed “Paw Sidon” and played by Jiminn Cole), this Ulysses is doomed to roam the earth instead of returning to his wife Penelope (here called “Nelly P.” and played by N. Woods) and his son Telemachus or “Malachi,” played by the playwright’s son Marcus Gardley Jr.
Lots of sturm und drang along the way, and comic snaps back-and-forth between the ancient Paw Sidin and Deus (James T. Alfred) who direct the proceedings as if they were moves on a chessboard. I especially enjoyed Ulysses’ hilarious encounter with three singing fates performing as Diana Ross, Tina Turner and James Brown. Standout performance by Harriet D. Foy as Ulysses’ mother-in-law Athena (now Aunt T) who watches reruns of the “Good Times” TV show while she’s smoking a doobie. The expert direction is by Stevie Walker-Webb who was responsible for the recent “Ain’t No Mo.”
Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening happened after curtain. While riding the bus home, we remembered we’d left a tote bag containing important material under our seat. Rising to the occasion, I leaped off the bus, cabbed it back to the theater and retrieved the tote bag just before they closed for the night. Even got a snap with cast member Harriet D. Foy (pictured above.) That makes two successful odysseys in one evening. Thank you, CSC.