Anna the Slut and the (almost) Chosen One

I have a real love of mythology. One of my first classes at UC was a Mythology class, specifically Middle Eastern and Egyptian mythology, taught by Cynthea Smith (who still teaches it, by the way). The first thing we read was the Epic of Gilgamesh– all tales of strength and masculinity. Eh. The second was Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth. Later, when I got to teach world lit, this was one of the first things I tackled. It’s very “Ancient Girl Power”– very different from the malecentric myths we, as westerners, are more familiar with.

I have a real love of mythology. One of my first classes at UC was a Mythology class, specifically Middle Eastern and Egyptian mythology, taught by Cynthea Smith (who still teaches it, by the way). The first thing we read was the Epic of Gilgamesh– all tales of strength and masculinity. Eh. The second was Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth. Later, when I got to teach world lit, this was one of the first things I tackled. It’s very “Ancient Girl Power”– very different from the malecentric myths we, as westerners, are more familiar with.

So, when I looked over the Fringe selections for this year and saw that someone was doing Inanna… with puppets… in a Midwestern college… well, color me intrigued. Who’d have thought that someone would do Sumerian mythology at Fringe? I was excited to make it my first pick. I was not disappointed.

Innana starts with a storyteller (Michael Burnham), retelling quite comically the story of Inanna and her sister, Ereshkigal, which involves an ancient drinking game and banishment to the Underworld. You know, typical mythological stuff. He then becomes the bartender at a college bar, where we encounter a Geek (Kyle Nunn) and a Jock (Jonathan Silver), the Best Friend (Kellen York) and the geeky-yet-attractive woman (Emily Matlack). You know that story, too– geek and jock battle over the hot new girl (Stephanie Brait)– it’s one of our modern myths.

These are both ancient and familiar archetypes, and Hunger Warrior Theatre manages to intertwine them quite seamlessly. The traditional Persian-style puppetry incorporates some modern touches (a puppet reading Playboy, anyone?) and the modern scenes incorporate these well-known archetypes. It is funny, entertaining, and somehow both timeless and modern at the same time.

Brait, who plays Inanna, does a stellar job of balancing sex-positive goddess and sex-positive perpetual college student, who has been doing the same things for centuries (and quite frankly is a bit tired of it) but the real standout is Emily Matlack, who, as the wry physics graduate student Julia, makes for a pragmatic, knowledgeable contrast for the seemingly fated goings-on in the bar. Some dialogue is a bit stilted, however these are kinks that will surely be worked out with a few performances before they hit the great grandaddy of Fringe in Edinburgh.

This was an entertaining, thoughtful romp– inventive and engaging.

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