The Seattle Children's Theatre production of "In the Nordic Lands" features rich storytelling staged on a fascinating set.
PERFORMANCE REVIEW |
At the beginning of Seattle Children’s Theatre’s “In the Northern Lands: Nordic Myths,” the character Odin — a Scandinavian god of war, magic and poetry; giver of life to the first man and woman — sacrifices one of his eyes for the power of foresight, the better to protect humankind.
By the end of this lively, colorful world-premiere work, he wonders why he did it. Considering the brutal victories and outright calamities in which Odin is involved over the course of the story — events he did not see coming — it’s hard for him to understand how mortals benefit from the many gambits, deceptions and feuds that occupy much of his and other gods’ time.
The answer to that is also the point of “In the Northern Lands.” Odin’s legacy is not in what he could control but what humans can learn from his efforts, despite mixed results — what we can, in fact, learn from the heritage of all mythology.
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The specific myths drawn upon in this production written by SCT’s artistic director Linda Hartzell and literary manager Torrie McDonald (based on traditional stories adapted by Carole Shieber) are derived from Scandinavian peoples, preserved in ancient Icelandic texts.
These tales were largely unknown before the 19th century, and inspired such creative spirits as composer Richard Wagner, author J.R.R. Tolkien and Marvel Comics’ founder Stan Lee. Kids will likely get a little thrill hearing a troll in this play refer to a powerful ring as “precioussss.”
Hartzell and McDonald have carved from extensive, colorful lore surrounding Odin (David Quicksall) and three other gods — Loki (Hans Altwies), Freyja (Emily Chisolm) and the hammer-wielding Thor (Rafael Untalan) — a string of events and stories that slowly develop narrative and emotional context.
Hartzell’s staging is played out on a fascinating set by Matthew Smucker, invoking basic elements of fire and stone, as well as the work of rudimentary chopping tools. Ropes allow the actors in this very physical production to suggest action through graceful acrobatics.
The cast of four portrays other mythic characters, including a giant and a creepy guardian of the netherworld. But in the end it is a beautiful image of the four main gods, literally dangling in the winds of history, chance and memory, that lingers in one’s memory.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org