« Bernstein's Candide--Seeing Past the Candy-coated Best of All Possible Worlds | Main | On the Road of Greek Theater »

A First-World Strip Show: Andromeda Breaks from Capital Fringe

Capital Fringe 2018 opened July 7 in Washington, DC and among the offerings was a one-hour world premiere drama entitled Andromeda Breaks mounted at the upscale Cradle of Arena Stage's Mead Center for American Theatre. Stephen Spotswood's play features two characters--Andromeda Jackson (Billie Krishawn) and Detective Sargent Percy (Jeremy Keith Hunter)--in a police interrogation room. The detective accuses her of murder but what he wants is the goods on her parents and she immediately demands her family lawyer, except the lawyer won't talk to her. She soon finds out her parents are "hanging her out...[to dry]." We also hear that the police have killed her cousin Minnie, who turns out to be the feminine version of the monster known as the Minotaur.


Here the Dresser suggests we back up and review the Greek myths suggested by the characters' names.

AndromedaMyth.jpgIn the myth, Andromeda is literally hung out to dry on a rock overlooking the sea after her mother Cassiopeia insults the sea god Poseidon by boasting that Andromeda is more beautiful than Poseidon's daughters known as the Nereids. Poseidon dispatches the sea monster Cetus to terrorize the coast of Aethiopia, which is the kingdom of Andromeda's father Cepheus. Cepheus consults the Oracle of Apollo who says the king must sacrifice his daughter to stop the monster. Meanwhile, the ultimate monster-slaying hero Perseus wanders by having just killed the Gorgon, Medusa. Perseus is still wearing the magic helmet which makes him invisible. So presto, he kills Cetus, unchains Andromeda, and marries her despite her father having promised his daughter to his brother Phineus. So Phineus gets mad and fights Perseus but Perseus pulls out the horrifying head of Medusa and turns Phineus and his followers into stone.

While there are plenty of monsters in the myth of Andromeda, the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, plays no role. In the Greek myth, the Minotaur lives at the center of the Labyrinth built by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus as commissioned by Minos, King of Crete. Because Minos was suffering competition for the throne from his brothers, he prayed to Poseidon (here is the only connection to the Andromeda myth) to send him a snow-white bull as sign of support. Poseidon complied but expected Minos to offer the white bull to him as sacrificial thanks. Minos thought the bull beautiful and decided to sacrifice an ordinary bull. As punishment, Poseidon made Mino's wife fall in love with the white bull which mates with her and produces the Minotaur. minotaur.jpg

What Stephen Spotswood has done is taken several characters of Greek myth into the 21st Century which allows him as a white author to talk about police corruption and brutality in the context of racism. While the outstanding actors chosen for this play are African Americans and Billie Krishawn opens the play by singing a blues song a cappella, these roles could be played by actors of any ethnicity since the words they speak do not indicate Black slang. The character who is "other" is the unseen cousin Minnie who dies in a shootout with the police. Minnie has told Andromeda that she would murder for Andromeda's parents but burn the world to cinders for her. Andromeda reveals that she and Minnie were planning to run away together to escape Andromeda's murderous father. Is Spotswood suggesting that these cousins had a same sex relationship? Does it matter? Perhaps only in the context of those who are categorized as other and different from everyone else. As Andromeda comes clean, detailing where all the bodies are buried, she finds out that Detective Percy has been complicit in her father's crimes. Suddenly the table turns and they trade places as she exonerates herself from crime and he digs his metaphoric grave. In this way, Spotswood offers a feminist restructuring of Andromeda's story.

The play is done on a bare stage set with table and two chairs. Sound effects include the sound of the sea against the shore and fire crackling. The compelling theater magic is created entirely by the actors. Bravo to Krishawn and Hunter.

"Death Tonight," a poem by Jazra Khaleed as translated by Peter Constantine, provides a modern-day landscape of horror with its machine guns, checkpoints, and Apache [helicopter] searchlights that complements Andromeda Jackson's mass graves of those murdered by her family. Andromeda is the child sacrificed by her parents as the warring power brokers--her family and the police--struggle for control.


Tonight death will turn widower
Machine guns still lusting in heat
Soldiers return to their countries
No longer to shoot
No longer to rape
Death sticks to their fingers like resin
Their deaths
The days stop at a checkpoint
The days are Muslim mothers
They don't have papers, they are deported
Tonight death will turn widower
I saw peace pluck her eyebrows
Just before she stepped on stage
Chewing popcorn
The masses on the square
Applaud the bombing of innocents
Murders of immigrants
The victory of civilization
The triumph of democracy
A first-world strip show
Tonight death will turn widower
Shrieks of dishonored women deafen my ears
Cluster bombs burrow into my stomach
I rule the moon
I assign all ebb and flow
The cops try to imprison gravity
Yet another undeclared war
The children's eyes shine black in the Apache's searchlights
Filled with ashes
Filled with hatred
Oblivion is selling one more genocide on eBay
Tomorrow is already a word without future
Death tonight

by Jazra Khaleed as translated by Peter Constantine
from Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry
(first publication in Modern Poetry in Translation (UK, 2009))


Post a comment

Use this form to place a comment to a post in the blog. You must include a valid email address for spam protection. Please see our Privacy Policy for details on how your private information is used and protected. Your comment will be posted as soon as it is reviewed by the blog editor.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 8, 2018 11:08 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Bernstein's Candide--Seeing Past the Candy-coated Best of All Possible Worlds.

The next post in this blog is On the Road of Greek Theater.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.