SF State graduate Marcus Gardley returns to his Oakland hometown for his latest theatrical adaptation, Black Odyssey, in a mashup of Greek mythology and African American folklore. The music-infused play makes its West Coast premiere at the California Shakespeare Theatre in Orinda through September 3.
Taken from Homer’s epic Odyssey, the play is a fable about confronting the burdens of one’s past before being able to truly find “home.” After American soldier Ulysses Lincoln is lost at sea and presumed dead, he struggles to find his way home to his wife and son. However, a host of gods manipulates the journey: the dignified Deus and the scheming Paw Sidin, playing with Ulysses’ fate like a game of chess, and the radiant Aunt Tina, who has her own reasons for setting her sights on the wandering warrior.
The San Jose Mercury News writes: “Those who saw Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand at Berkeley Rep in 2014 know the playwright and Oakland native has a knack for blending big ideas with dramatic flourish and turning timeless stories into works with a distinctly contemporary feel.”
Praised by The New Yorker as “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams,” Gardley (B.A., Creative Writing, ’01) won the 2015 Will Glickman Award for The House That Will Not Stand. A story about free women of color in 1836 New Orleans, the play was a finalist for the 2015 Kennedy Prize. His most recent play, X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. the Nation, was a New York Times critic pick and will be remounted off Broadway in spring 2018. Gardley also writes for television, including an episode of Fox’s The Exorcist, Amazon’s Z: The Beginning of Everything and Showtime’s forthcoming series The Chi.
— Matt Itelson