"Perseus Bayou"

George Mason University

When "Perseus Bayou: The Search for the Cajun Medusa" premiered nearly two years ago at George Mason University's Theater of the First Amendment, the family-oriented musical drew packed houses and much critical acclaim. The kudos came largely in response to the way playwright Mary Hall Surface and composer David Maddox had re-imagined the Greek myth, transforming it into a lively and tuneful Cajun fable for all ages -- save for preschoolers.

To fully appreciate their efforts and ingenuity, not to mention the show's mossy atmospherics and gator-masked cast, nothing short of seeing "Perseus Bayou" will do. Yet the soundtrack recording, now available, reveals many of the show's charms as it traces Perseus's adventures and misadventures in the post-bellum South. More or less following the Greek myth, Perseus becomes Percy, a boy with a mystical past, a romantic bent and a challenging future: He must slay the snake-coiffed Medusa or face dire consequences.

Surface and Maddox, both Southerners, come across as true kindred spirits here, setting the tale into fairly seamless motion, its story line and music colorfully woven together. Percy's encounters with love (in the person of Andromeda, or "Andy," as she prefers to be called) and trouble (the evil Polydectes, whose mean-spiritedness is briefly overshadowed by the arrival of a monster gator) certainly make for yarn-spinning stuff, and Maddox adroitly modulates the shifting emotions and moods. He's got plenty of help, of course, including the original cast and a six-piece accordion-and-fiddle-driven ensemble that colorfully orchestrates Percy's path and quest.

-- Mike Joyce

"Perseus Bayou" will be performed Thursday through April 26 at George Mason University's Center for the Arts Concert Hall. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Mary Hall Surface and David Maddox, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8103. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)