LOKI’S MONTROUS CHILDREN – Written by Ellen K. Graham; Directed by Hart DeRose. Produced by Feral Assembly (Presented at the Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan) through November 11. Tickets available at feralassembly.com.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t feel qualified to review this show for potential viewers. I know diddly squat about Dungeons and Dragons and only minimal information about Norse mythology. Other than the first Gal Godot WONDER WOMAN, I haven’t even watched superhero or Marvel movies since Christopher Reeve stopped playing Superman. But I didn’t feel like I was the only one who walked out of the theatre shaking their head with a “What just happened?” on their lips.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the afternoon of watching Loki’s children act up; part of the fun was trying to pull the pieces together, figure out relationships, and who was a semi-God and who was human. So, I’ve done a little dramaturgy on my own to see if I can figure it out.
Let’s start with Odin (played briefly by Terry Burnsed), a Norse god of war who was married to Frigg (Gina Wencel), goddess of marriage and fertility. They had children but it seems that Odin had a little side hustle going on with another goddess and sired Loki from that relationship. Which made him a little pissed off at the world. Who wants to be half-anything and ignored by your dad? Regardless, Loki married Sigyn and had three children. This is where our story starts.
We first meet Hel who presides over the place she’s named for. She is described as half blue/half flesh-colored and is gloomy and downcast. The slow moving, slow talking Bevin Antea gives us an impressive Hel as she welcomes the newly dead to her domain.
Second on board is Fenrir who presents as wolf – no gender confusion there. Josh Berkowitz brings his sexy to the party . . . . but it doesn’t take a blow from Thor’s hammer to tell everyone to stay away from this one. The doctor (Dakota Hill) who comes periodically to treat him is intrigued but cautious – until he’s not. Whoops!
The third child of Loki is Jormungandr (pronunciation on your own) who presents as a giant snake so long that he bites his own tail as he encircles the earth under the ocean. It is rumored that should he let go of his own tail, Ragnarok would commence. This is the battle between humans and Gods that would end it all for humanity.
We never meet Jormungandr (because he’s under the sea), but Marie, female Olympic swimmer (Calista Masters) who has never been allowed to swim anywhere but in a pool, is intrigued by the ocean. So, of course, the first time she swims in the ocean, who should she encounter but the big old snake-head. In probably the most dramatic scene in the evening, we learn what has happened to her as her mother (Gina Wensel again) stands on the shore screaming her name.
The action eventually seems to devolve down to a DnD game in which Maria is the Dungeon Master controlling the story and the other non-children characters are the players on a complicated campaign. So, is everything that went before a game? Is Loki trying to get all his children together in one place? If so, why? We never really meet Loki but he’s certainly talked about. As a major trickster, it would be just like him to have put this whole thing together as a big joke on the audience. Wait, I’ve got it – Ellen K. Graham, the playwright, is Loki!! That explains everything!!
You see what I mean? The fun is in trying to analyze the pieces and pull them cohesively together. But the progression of the scenes and the use of actors playing multiple roles adds just enough confusion to the proceedings that you are kept on your mental toes throughout the performance.
I do feel qualified to comment on the work of the cast and the production values. It was so pleasurable to see Terry Burnsed and Gina Wensel back on stage when I haven’t seen either of them in decades. Terry’s grumpy old dead guy starts the night off with a laugh. Gina’s anguished mother on the shore ends the night with a tear. Johnathan Underwood takes the role of an office clerk that lets him rest a little more than his recent stint as Renfield in DRACULA. His co-worker is MaryAnn Amari. Josh Berkowitz seemed to have no problem bringing his wolfish tendencies to the forefront and Dakota Hill had no problem falling for his game. A very thoughtful and tender Artie Thompson who has just returned to performing was a social worker trying to help. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Matthew Schultz plays Tyr, another God who got a little too close to Fenrir, dressed like Trump on the top half and wears shorts on the bottom half. Are you readers getting a hint of the whimsy involved in this production? If I had known some of this information before watching the show, I would have had even more fun figuring things out.
The big open space at the Buntport Theatre proved helpful in giving very specific playing spaces for the variety of action going on somewhat simultaneously. However, it seemed as though the playing spaces and lighting could have been used more effectively in helping the play avoid long blackouts. In some cases, the space between scenes was caused by the need for an actor to add or take off a piece of costume to assume their alternate role which leads to the question – could the scenes have been arranged somewhat differently and still told the same story??
The truth is that everyone in the audience will leave the theatre with a slightly different take on “What just happened?” and that’s OK.
A WOW factor of 8!!