Oh Baby, I'm a Cyclops

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Today we start with a quick refresher on obscure classical Greek theater...the Satyr play. Now, Satyrs are the those bawdy half-man half-beast follower's of Dionysus, god of wine and all things good -- like theater.

And Satyr plays were, we think, tragic comedies. I say, we think because frankly we don't know all that much about Satyr plays. What we do know is captured mostly on urns, many of them in the collection of the Getty Villa in Malibu. So we think they were performed as part of the annual theater festivals in Athens, the Dionysia. Playwrights would submit three tragedies and one Satyr play. The Satyr play would be performed last and befitting the horny Satyrs -- and they were horny in all senses of the word -- they were sort of drunken romps. The tragic chorus was replaced by a chorus of besotted, cowardly goat-men telling a story of the gods meddling with man -- often with a bit of sex involved.

Unlike the classical Greek tragedies -- think Oedipus, Antigone, Electra -- we have only one complete Satyr play -- Cyclops by Euripedes. And a brave LA Company, Psitticus Productions, has turned Cyclops into A Rock Opera because, after all, what captures the tragic comedy of hirsute half-men quite like rock opera?



Seriously, the concept is genius, if at times a bit uneven. The chorus of Satyrs has turned into a rock band, occasionally bleating and stomping their 'hooves,' wearing white fur chaps and led by front man Silenus, played with sinister glee by Louis Butelli. It feels a bit like you've been invited into a suburban basement to hear your friend's Queen cover band. A feeling that intensifies when the Cyclops comes out, shirtless with a gauzy silk headband and black leather pants played by actor Jayson Landon Marcus who could easily pass for Freddy Mercury.

The play is turned into an hour-long 20-song set that captures the myth, more or less, of Odysseus and the Cyclops. It's helpful to know the basic story walking in because the early songs do a better job rocking than storytelling.

The tongue-in-cheek style finds itself with gems like an electric ukele shanty sung by Odysseus, what's billed as an 'intimate ballad' called "More for the Whore" about Helen of Troy and, perhaps the most joyful tune, "I'm a Cyclops" with lyrics like "I'm a Cyclops, Yes it's true, Oh baby I'm a Cyclops, Aren't I a bit like you?"

Clearly, Cyclops: A Rock Opera isn't for everybody. If a little -- okay a lot -- of risqué humor makes you squeamish or the idea of a love song titled "Sodomy" isn't up your alley, you might want to pass. If you're up for raunchy rock about a Greek myth, head on over, and while it's not essential to worship Dionysus before, it might not hurt.

Cyclops: A Rock Opera is part of the Company Creation Festival at Son of Semele in Silver Lake and plays through March 4.

For info on the show text the word "curtain" to 69866.

Share your take on the show at KCRW.com/theater.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Banner image: (L to R) Chas Libretto, Jayson Landon Marcus and Louis Butelli in Cyclops: A Rock Opera. Photo: Wenona Cole-McLaughlin