‘We Tiresias’ nets a Greek prophet
By Peter Marks
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
One of the enduring payoffs of a fringe festival is its unusually broad access to talent that is as yet a well-kept secret. That gratifying attribute is on display in a number of productions at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival, among them in the staging of D.C. playwright Stephen Spotswood’s lyrical and agreeably concise Greek riff, “We Tiresias.”
On the stage of the Shop at Fort Fringe you will encounter one of the bright new faces of the seventh installment of the fringe, in the person of Chris Stinson. This preternaturally self-assured young actor, making his festival debut, reminds you that pleasant surprises occur wherever footlights are switched on.
Stinson is one-third of a well-cast trio of actors -- the others are Melissa Marie Hmelnicky and Steve Beall -- in the aptly named “We Tiresias,” which breaks out the story of the blind prophet of myth as a supernatural autobiography. Tiresias, the seer who appears to Odysseus in Homer’s “Odyssey” and also turns up in dramas by Euripides and Sophocles, gets his own spinoff play here from Spotswood and director Matt Ripa.
The strange tale of Tiresias -- born male but transformed by the gods into a woman -- is recounted by Beall, playing the soothsayer as an old man; his younger selves are embodied in turn by Stinson and Hmelnicky. The piece’s episodic structure is lucidly assembled, though the retrospective on Tiresias’s life could stand a bit more psychological context. We might be transported more fully by Tiresias’s story if the character confided more about why he’s chosen this moment to tell it.
There’s an absence of ambiguity, however, in the acting, which is on a secure level all around. The particular find here is Stinson, who in his technical skill locates a heroic dimension in the character and thus mandates that an audience pay attention.