The Persians

  • Date:
    May 1, 2005
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Review by Polly Wittenberg

    Now playing at the Perry Street Theatre
    to the 20 Aug 2005

    Written by: Waterwell Theatre Company based on a play by Aeschylus
    Directed by: Tom Ridgely
    Cast: Hanna Cheek, Rodney Gardiner, Arian Moayed and Tom Ridgely.
    Synopsis: The Persians were the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. The Persians' army was the largest that had ever been assembled. The Persians marched off to destroy their most hated enemies. The Persians lost the war and the world. The revolution is about to begin.


    Polly Wittenberg's Review.

    In recent reviews, I have been yakking on about how little I�ve seen that seems to appeal to young people. It�s the subject matter of the plays for sure but also the high ticket prices. Anyway, I�ve found where the next generations of regular theatregoers are hangin� out. It�s at The Persians, produced by Waterwell Theatre Company. Drop down a black hole (literally) on St. Marks Place in the East Village. And, if you can forgive the rickety staircase (which at my age is an issue), it�s a thoroughly comfortable (even air-conditioned!) and delightful place to be.

    The inspiration for this creation by Waterwell, a company formed by a pair of recent Indiana University grads (Arian Moayed and Tom Ridgely), is Aeschylus� great Greek war drama (written in 472 BC), which has been transformed into �a comedy about war with five songs.� From the opening featuring fedoras and a cigarette in a style reminiscent of Chicago, through the ending number (�Persia on My Mind�), the show has lots to say about how arrogant societies get caught up in wars they can�t win, what the home folks are up to while the fighters are away, and about how energy and artistry can bring old stories thrillingly to life.

    In addition to Moayed and Ridgely (who also directed), the talented cast includes Hanna Cheek and Rodney Gardiner, terrific singers and dancers all. Their four-part harmony is a dream. The music (from guitar riffs to hip-hop to R&B to quasi-tribal numbers), inventive and appropriate, is supplied by two musicians supplemented by two Ipods! In addition to the message, it�s full of good jokes and horseplay. A thoroughly beguiling 90 minutes and the tickets are $15.

    It�s only scheduled to run through next weekend (Sat 18 Jun 2005.) So run right out and enjoy.

    On a recent trip to London, I saw a version of the old saga of Tristan & Iseult presented by a young company called Kneehigh at the National Theatre. It had many of the same virtues (creativity, energy, spark) as The Persians, although I found the total package a bit over-the-top. You can read a brief review on the sister website at Londontheatre.co.uk.

    In London, the major institutional theatre is aggressively going after young audiences. In New York, our subscription theaters are stuck catering to their middle-aged patrons. That�s practical, but not very far-sighted. If New Yorkers are interested in what appeals to the young, the fun stuff (like The Persians) is here, but you�ve got to catch it while you can.

    Polly Wittenberg