July 7, 2013
My four year old great-nephew, Johnny, was my date to see Mighty Myths & Legends this week. This play is recommended for children 5 & up. And as we sat down, I began to fear that it might be a little over his head. The only scenery is a pool in the center of the stage with a mountain looming over it. There are only four actors and a narrator. They all wear a basic costume that never changes, but is enhanced with the addition of props for different characters in each story. I feared that visually, it wouldn't hold his attention. But boy, was I wrong...he loved it!! He was mesmerized throughout the whole one hour performance.
The play opens with the Cherokee Indian creation myth disclosing the part various animals played in forming the earth from the pool of water. The pool is an integral part of all the stories with the actors around or in the pool all of the time.
We travel to ancient Greece to learn why Echo can only repeat words that she hears others say. And how Narcissus is punished for causing others to feel the pain of his rejection. We learn the importance of following directions in the story of Orpheus and his beautiful bride, Eurydice and also in the story of Icarus who ignored his father's directions and flew too close to the sun.
From Iceland, we hear the tale of an old fisherman's reward for his kindness to a beautiful, beached mermaid and the importance of trust from the Japanese folktale of the Crane Wife. We travel all the way to Africa to discover the price for selfishness in the hilarious tale of Anansi the spider and turtle. And we end with a hair-raising tale from Norse mythology involving Thor, Hymir the Giant and Jormungandr, the ferocious sea serpent!
Although Johnny liked all of the stories, his favorites were Thor's Fishing Trip, because Thor is so brave and strong and lightening flashed when he wielded his hammer, the Mermaid and the Comb, because her tail was so beautiful and Anansi and the Turtle because they were so funny.
I thought the wings and the flight scene from Icarus and Daedalus were beautiful and believable and I loved the gorgeous transformation of the white crane with a black crest into a lovely young girl with long black hair in a white silk kimono. I also thought the mermaid's tale was beautiful, but my favorite was the story of Anansi & the Turtle because the story was so funny and the turtle's costume, with enormous scuba flippers on his feet was such a hoot!!
The costumes were all very clever, adding just enough to identify the character, but not so much to be distracting. Because every costume ended up in the water at some point, I heard there were 2 or 3 of each so that a dry one was always ready. All four of the young actors were fantastic, using not only thier voices, but their whole bodies to tell the tale and make their characters come alive.
I think most children at least 4 or 5 years old, as well as adults, would enjoy this performance. I thought it was delightful and I highly recommend it.
On the way home, I was amazed at how well Johnny understood each story. He could re-tell each one fairly accurately and understood the morale of most of them. When I asked if he had any questions, he immediately responded, "yes, can we see it again?" I guess that translates to 5 out of 5 stars and I agree!