To Ithaca

To Ithaca
Writer/Director: Tatiana Jennings
Movement Coach:  Sharon Moore
Vocal Coach: Fides Krucker
Featuring: Graduating Students from Humber School of Creative and Performing Arts
A Humber Theatre Presentation
Humber Studio Theatre
300 Birmingham Street
February 17-25 2017
Reviewed by Ted Fox
In this Humber Theatre presentation of To Ithaca, Director/Writer Tatiana Jennings makes the myth of Odysseus and Penelope relevant to today's world. Ithaca becomes a bombed-out shell of a city. Refugees take shelter there. There is racism, sexism and a host of problems similar to now.
Penelope, wife of Odysseus, awaits the return of her husband, even though the dominant belief is that he is dead. She wards off suitors, promising that she will choose one when he returns and her weaving is complete. She constantly weaves and at end of each day, takes down her work, to be put up again in different configurations.
Penelope is played with relish by Brendan Chandler. She has a white powdered androgynous vampiric look complete with red lips. In speech and facial expressions she comes across as manipulating and patronizing.
She is always listening and watching. Aware of all who enter Ithaca, their plotting and their sexual encounters. Also, she weaves all the characters into a tapestry of various encounters and situations. It's as if she is a spider toying with her unsuspecting victims before she makes her move, and is awaiting Odysseus's arrival from the wars to do so.
Two women refugees, one with baby, take shelter in Ithaca. There are constant anti-immigrant remarks about them. And physical violence. Penelope and the others observe. Do nothing, in a patriarchal environment where women are demeaned and humiliated by the business-suited males.
When Odysseus appears, he feigns being traumatized and confused. Two guards who are suitors for the hand of Penelope occasionally taunt him and Telemachus (Ryan Breton), Penelope"s son. 
The set design is a construction scaffold. It really has the look of a bombed war-torn city or house within it. The space below becomes a bomb shelter, an entrance, an exercise room, and a throughway, among other things. The second level consists of rooms with window frames pushed up by the actors so we are looking in watching them or or they are watching events below including us. One can see several rooms at times. I love the way one's imagination can take off and fill in details. Spare and simple. No technological overkill. There is also a clear division of social class.
We see the sound technician dressed in a camouflage suit and wearing work goggles. She periodically ascends a ladder appearing to check out events occurring.
Choreographer Sharon Moore is movement coach. The use of slow movement. creates a sort of hypnotic tension, versus the smooth flow of movement as they navigate the set.
Vocal coach Fides Krucker gets great results from all the actors. The subtly textured suggestive voice  of Penelope. The baby crying by the technician. And the hilarious raspy-voiced mythical creature (Julia Vande Burgt).
Overall the finely detailed clown bouffant facial reactions and body language are always highly entertaining to watch. I could even imagine at times red noses for several of the characters, including Helen (Kitty Orsten). Had that happened though it would take away from the grim reality depicted here that is so reflective of the society we are now living in.
I found To Ithaca a highly polished production featuring superb acting from the Humber Theatre graduating students. Those on the production side are also great. It is rare in student productions to see such a challenging and highly entertaining  show with political content.