Review: Prometheus Bound

Publication date: 
March 15, 2011
Author: 
Jenna Scherer

In the grand mess of Greek mythology, there might not be a more apropos screamo poster boy than Prometheus. He was a wily god who beat the system and got unduly punished for it.

Pretty great fodder for a rock musical, and writer/lyricist Steven Sater and composer Serj Tankian knew it when they adapted Aeschylus’ 2,500-year-old tragedy. And they ought to be versed in this stuff: Sater is the Tony-winning scriptwriter/lyricist of recent rock musical success Spring Awakening, and Tankian is the frontman of uber-popular hard rock band System of a Down.

In Prometheus Bound, our hero is a shirtless, spiky-haired headbanger with some seriously sick pipes (voice and abs both courtesy of Broadway golden boy Gavin Creel). He’s still the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, and got chained to a mountainside for his troubles; but he’s also every eyeliner-wearing, damn-The-Man scene kid who ever got grounded for staying out late and huffing paint.

A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus helms Prometheus, which she stages in a similar club-meets-theater style as The Donkey Show (running every Saturday night in the same space). A good chunk of the audience is down on the floor, surrounding the ever-moving, light-up plinth upon which Prometheus spends most of the show, chained and writhing.

It’s tricky to pull off this whole musical theater-meets-rock concert thing without being really cheesy about it, but Prometheus finds the sweet spot. There isn’t all that much to the plot, so Greek mythology newbs won’t be too put off. And while there’s a hearty dose of screamy noise rock in Tankian’s music, he also knows how to mix it up. A women’s chorus called the Daughters of the Aether (Jo Lampert, Celina Carvajal and Ashley Flanagan) provide some fairly gorgeous three-part harmony.

It helps that Paulus’s cast have a level of collective musical theater chops rarely seen in Boston. The Tony-nominated Creel (who last worked with Paulus in her Broadway revival of Hair) lets his usually crooning tenor go over to the crazy side, and has the charisma to help us get over the hump of Prometheus’s unapologetic melodrama. Uzo Aduba lets her powerful voice rip as cursed mortal Io. Gabe Ebert seems to be having the most fun of the lot with his bitchy take on Hermes.

The most important thing when seeing Prometheus is just not to think too hard about it. Whatever pretensions it may have, Sater and Tankian’s show has a pretty simple formula: foot-stomping, shout-along abandon is fun. In a musical theater landscape that’s been trending toward the bland and tame, we could use a little of that Olympian fire.

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