Harmonia Hits a High Note at SFU

by Catherine Ballachey

This past Wednesday, the SFU Contemporary Arts program premiered Ned Dickens’ Harmonia as their spring mainstage production, directed by SFU’s DD Kugler. As part of the nation-wide City of Wine project, Harmonia is the first of a seven-play cycle spinning the history of the Ancient Greek city of Thebes. Each of the seven plays are being performed by theatre schools across the country and will be taken to Toronto in May where they will be showcased in order at the Theatre Passe-Murailles.

Harmonia

Harmonia explores the marriage of Cadmus and Harmonia, the founders of the city of Thebes. The action takes place in the house of Ares, the god of war, on Mount Olympus where Cadmus has been condemned to slavery for betraying the vengeful god. There Cadmus meets and subsequently falls for Harmonia, the secret love child of Ares and the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The fabric of slave life on Mount Olympus begins to be torn apart as the lovers try to find a way to leave Mount Olympus and their immortality behind. Of course, during the course of their attempted escape, they become entangled in a series of games, orchestrated by the Gods, which force the two paramours to prove their love for one another.

The cast and crew certainly had some tricks up their sleeves to pull this one off. The majority of the actors, with the exception of some of the major characters, took on the challenging responsibility of playing two roles, making for some very interesting transformations. Through the tricks of subtle lighting cues and costuming, the cast and crew were able to transform a slave into a God with a series of precisely executed transitions. It was seamless. I found myself searching for mistakes while discovering very few.

Photo Credit: Ally Colclough

Photo Credit: Ally Colclough

The show, during its course, was continuously accented by the work of an ensemble of musicians playing unique instruments. Lead by two music students, the actors moved in and out of speech, song, intensive physical scores and instrument work. I must admit, the entire first act for me involved acclimating myself to the bold style of the show, but by the second act, I was able to bounce along and enjoy myself without having to think about how the show was being presented. I almost forgot that this play was the introduction to the tragic stories of Pentheus, Oedipus, and Antigone. Harmonia seemed like the lighthearted prelude to a daunting storyline.

Harmonia will run at the SFU theatre in Burnaby until March 6th with shows Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday evenings and Thursdays for a (free) matinee.

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