Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale
Created by: Tony Hernandez
Story and Direction by: Tony Hernandez and Heidi Stillman
At the Goodman’s Owen Theatre
The return of Hephaestus is poetry in motion: A thrilling spectacle not to be missed.
I find it amazing that up until recently I had never heard of Hephaestus; especially since this show had two sold-out runs in Chicago (2005 and 2008). If you are like me, and haven’t heard of this wonderful show, go and see it. I do not say this simply as a recommendation, but an order. This is show that combines simple storytelling with amazing feats of strength, visual spectacle, and a finale that will literally take your breath away. It contains the grandeur and magic of the “Big Top,” in an intimate setting that is difficult to find. This show is a must-see.
The story begins with a young girl struggling with her family life that finds solace in the story of Hephaestus. For those unfamiliar with the myth, Hephaestus was the son of Hera, but was born disfigured. In her disgust, Hera threw Hephaestus down from Mount Olympus. He fell so far that by the time he hit the ground he was a grown man. He is crippled by the fall, but discovers he has an unparalleled ability to forge things out of metal. He creates an army of “Silvermen” who assist him in his craft, and is eventually approached by Hera to return to Mount Olympus as “God of the Forge.” Although there is some narration, the majority of the story is told through circus stunts and visual spectacle. Each spectacle is more fantastic than the last; starting with sea nymphs suspended from the ceiling doing acrobatic moves on pieces of cloth as bubbles fill the theatre and stick to the ground. The simple touch of having the bubbles remain is highly effective. The “Silvermen” create an eerie image just from their presence and engage in Stomp-like numbers with a hint of Blue Man Group thrown in. The gods and goddesses have high-flying, back-bending moments that will have your jaw literally hanging open. As I have previously said, the finale will blow your mind away. It is a 7-person high-wire pyramid that is rarely done even at a regular circus. The only time I have seen anything like this done, is on the now cancelled “Guiness World Records” show. I could not believe my eyes.
The entire company deserves a giant hand of applause for the hard work and dedication it took to put on this magnificent performance. They have been rehearsing and training 6-7 hours a day, 6 days a week for months under the famous Wallenda Family. The danger is real (no nets or safety wires), but each feat is pulled off with such grace that they make it seem as simple as breathing. Creator/Co-Director/Hephaestus/Co-Writer Tony Hernandez has made something that will leave an imprint in my mind for years to come. I also want to give a giant hand to the entire technical crew for creating such a visually stunning environment and making sure that all performers were safe throughout the show. Unfortunately I can not compare this production to the previous ones done at the Lookingglass, but what I can tell you is that according to Mr. Hernandez, the Owen BrunerTheatre at the Goodman has more ceiling space than they have ever had. So if you have already seen this show, and thought it was death-defying before, perhaps in the Owen it is even more amazing.
At this point I may sound like a broken record, but I can not say enough good things about this show. If you don’t enjoy Hephaestus, chances are you don’t have a pulse. Take the kids, it’s a great way to introduce them to the theatre and give them the kind of circus experience they won’t get inside a large arena. As I said, this is the third time this show has played in Chicago, so don’t roll the dice and wait to see if it comes back to Chicago. Go and see this show while you’ve got the chance, you won’t regret it.
Date of Review: 4/16/10
In Goodman Theatre’s Owen Bruner Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. Tickets $25-$70. Student and rush discounts available. Call 312-337-0665. , www.goodmantheatre.org. Group Sales: Call 312-337-0665 (Lookingglass Box office) Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Running time is approximately 85 minutes with no intermission. Through June 20, 2010.