J.A.S.O.N. – Written by Pete Resienberg; Directed Hatem Adell; Presented by the Office Of War Information (Bureau Of Theatre) Saturdays at 3PM and Sundays at 7 PM at Club Bohemia in the basement of the Cantab Lounge, 738 Mass. Ave., Cambridge through October.
Boston’s newest theater company, Office Of War Information (Bureau Of Theatre), offers a unique, immersive theater experience in the basement of a Cambridge dive bar. J.A.S.O.N. is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek tale of Jason and the Argonauts. In this version, Jason is the lead singer of a punk band on their first (and last) tour. Rather than sailing around Greece in a ship, these Argonauts are driving around in a tour bus, playing three night stands throughout Greece, and even getting into a battle of the bands with the Sirens. The title is a reference to the months during which the tour takes place; July, August, September, October, and November. This also provides a framework for the action of the play, with the scenes divided according to the month.
If you are unfamiliar with the Argonautica, the Greek epic poem written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC, or Medea, the ancient tragedy written by Euripides, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basic plot points of each before attending this show. Fortunately there is a brief reintroduction included in the program. Read it. Having not read either of these classics since college, I missed some of the more esoteric references, but anyone who has studied them recently, or is currently studying classics, will surely catch them all and have a richer experience for it.
The play begins with a lot of characters talking over each other, and seems rather hard to follow, but it’s best to just let the words flow over you and help transport you into the world of the play. As it continues, the characters become more clearly delineated, and the plot clarifies. The play starts out fairly realistic/surrealistic, and veers toward farce at the end as the action comes to a head. Each actor plays two characters, which also seems a bit confusing but becomes more clear as the play progresses. Liz Adams does a great job, and has a lot of the heavy lifting for the play, as Medea/Daughter. Her characters drive a lot of the plot, and is onstage almost the entire time. Tim Hoover plays Orpheus with just the right amount of rock star attitude. Daniel Boudreau is a real standout, with his understated, but very genuine portrayal of Peleus. He doesn’t have a lot of action in the play, but is compelling every time he takes the stage. The rest of the cast does a great job with the material, but the whole performance felt a bit under-rehearsed. Some of the transitions needed tightening, and it felt as though the actors were occasionally grasping for lines. This being their first performance, I expect these bumps to be smoothed out over the next few performances.