What fools these mortals be

Jupiter may be the omnipotent Roman god, but he's no match for a mere mortal in the bedroom.

Such is the premise of "Alkmena" opening Feb. 17 at the Changing Scene Theatre Northwest in East Bremerton.

The play is an original musical comedy adaption by Port Townsend playwright David Schroeder, based on the 1920's play "Amphitryon 38," by Jean Giraudoux. The "38" refers to the number of versions of the play that were supposedly written.

A brief Roman/Greek mythology lesson helps to explain the plot: Alkmena is a mortal, married to the warrior Amphitryon. Head god Jupiter (Zeus in Greek mythology), makes a sport of seducing mortals by trickery and sets his sights on Alkmena as his next conquest. His son Mercury eggs him on with lots of helpful suggestions about what form he can take to complete his mission.

At this point the play deviates from the myth.

Jupiter succeeds in bedding Alkmena and their union produces Heracles/Hercules, but the seduction proves to be a Herculean task indeed for the god of gods.

It seems that Alkmena is steadfastly devoted to her husband, so Jupiter decides to take on his form in order to fool her. Although the plan works, Jupiter is chagrined that Alkmena considered the coupling merely "conjugal," while Jupiter was hoping for a "divine" pronouncement.

The blow is more than Jupiter's god-sized ego can take, and he sets out to prove himself worthy of the mortal woman's love.

Director Sherry Knox has assembled a cast with many faces familiar to local theater-goers, with Leslie Engelhard as Alkmena, Ken Kidder as Jupiter, Christopher Dolan as Mercury and Dray Young as Amphitryon.

Rounding out the cast are Zoe James as Leda (another of Jupiter's conquests), Ashley Hamrick as Ecclisse, Taylor Mantzke as Socia, and a chorus consisting of Hamrick, Mantzke, Capt. Cal, Kristi Forsberg and Erin McKiernan.

Engelhard and Kidder both have extensive singing and acting experience in local theater, while Dolan is becoming the resident Changing Scene performer. His acting resumé may not be lengthy, but the young man has a knack for comedy and a prodigious ability to memorize fast-paced dialogue. At a recent rehearsal he was prompting other actors in recalling their lines.

Playwright Schroeder will be glad to know his musical is in capable hands. It's the first time he has not been involved in its production, beyond providing a recorded piano soundtrack.

"It's like, my baby is now leaving home," he said by phone from his Port Townsend home last week.

The musical has been produced several times in the Port Townsend area, but this is its first trip "abroad."

"I'm very delighted that it has a further life in Silverdale and Bremerton," he said.

Schroeder gives Knox credit for pursuing its production in Kitsap County. Knox has been active in local theater for close to 30 years, directing productions for the Bremerton Community Theatre, CSTOCK, Performing Arts Guild of South Kitsap and the Poulsbo Players.

She saw "Alkmena" in Port Townsend in 1998 and has wanted to produce it here since then.

Knox said the challenge of this production has been to work with a recorded soundtrack, rather than live music.

"I love doing musicals, as long as I have the support I need," she said. She credits the cast with providing that support. "The cast is very musical; they have a nice blend of energies."

Schroeder said he wrote the musical after reading Giraudoux's "Amphitryon 38."

"It is a very clever twist on the classic gods," he said. "He centered the story on Alkmena, who in previous versions was just a pawn."

While the conception of Hercules used to be the point of the story, this version is about the strength of Alkmena, and the strength of her fidelity.

Schroeder said he hopes audiences will come away thinking about the complexities of truth, and what is real and what isn't. It's a comedy, but one that aims at the brain as well as the funny bone.

"I've always admired the work of Stephen Sondheim," Schroeder said. "He's able to achieve theatrical music that speaks to the heart and the head. A lot of musical theater is addressed just to the feet — it gets your toes tapping. I'm not a toe tapping kind of guy."

"Alkmena" may not be a toe tapper, but it is likely to produce a lot of guffaws and some thoughtful chuckles.

"Alkmena" opens Feb. 17 at the Changing Scene Theatre Northwest, 5889 SR 303, Suite 104, East Bremerton, in the West Sound Business Park, and runs weekends through March 18.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors, students and active military, available by phone at (360) 792-8601.

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