Artistic Director Tom Reing wanted to institute Shirtless Tuesdays in rehearsals for Inis Nua Theatre Company’s “Penelope,” but the cast wasn’t game.
“They’re wearing Speedos the whole time,” Reing explains, referring to the costumes donned by the four male leads in the play, opening Friday. “We were joking about it — I wanted to get them into that experience by having Shirtless Tuesdays. But they didn’t go for it.”
The Speedo-ed actors play Penelope’s remaining suitors, in this absurdist twist on Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Penelope has been waiting years for her husband, Odysseus, to return from the Trojan Wars.
One hundred suitors vied for her affection, and we’re now down to four holdouts. When word comes Odysseus is on his way home, they realize he’ll kill them when he arrives — unless one of them can win Penelope’s love first. So they decide to work together in this do-or-die quest.
It doesn’t make the situation any easier that they’re stuck at the bottom of an empty swimming pool.
Reing knew he wanted to produce “Penelope,” which was written by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, as soon as he saw it performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “I’m always drawn to Enda Walsh’s work — the language is so rich,” he says. “In ‘Penelope,’ the play opens and you’re looking at two guys in a drained swimming pool, with a barbecue. [Walsh] writes these amazingly theatrical settings.”
Penelope never speaks on stage; Reing says much of the dark comedy comes from the bumbling suitors: “They’re not very good at their jobs. And they’re not very good people, and humor comes from that.”
Inis Nua usually holds productions in the Off-Broad Street Theatre, but had to quickly find a new (and temporary) venue since that theater is about the close. “Penelope” is being performed at the Prince Music Theater, but for upcoming productions Inis Nua will join InterAct Theatre Company, PlayPenn, Simpatico Theatre Project and Azuka Theatre in at new home at The Drake (1512 Spruce St.), it was announced yesterday.
April 8 to 26 (opening night is April 10)
Prince Music Theater
1412 Chestnut St.