by Helen Shaw
In Marcus Gardley’s epic, the playwright breaks faith with Homer’s poem only to tie it to a richer network of influences, mythic structures that stretch from our musical pantheon (in Gardley’s version, the Sirens include Tina Turner) to the prayers sent up on the rooftops of Katrina-flooded homes. Glittering, rhyming stanzas flash in the blue-lit gloom, with divinities talking smack—the ocean god Paw Sidin (a superb Jimonn Cole) has no use for Apollo, even if he did get that cute theatre up in Harlem—and taking swings at one another, using fragile human bodies as proxy weapons. Here Ulysses (Sean Boyce Johnson) is a wandering Army vet with water on the brain; his wife (D. Woods) and son (Marcus Gladney, Jr.) must avoid predatory cops and suitors; his Athena-like auntie, Tee (Harriett D. Foy), becomes mortal, hoping to shepherd the wanderer’s family as they wait for him to return home. His journey carries him through a nightmare of Black suffering, but the show manages to carry us lightly through fraught waters, thanks to gorgeously inventive staging by Stevie Walker-Webb, and to a cast fit for the gods.