Trinity Rep's "Beowulf": Fang in Cheek

The Cast of "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage"
(photo: Trinity Rep)

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage, the musical? The rock and roll musical? The 3,182- line oldest Auld English poem in all of its anonymous and alliterative glory? Lest you fear, here are two words for you: Dave Malloy. The Dave Malloy who created the Libretto and Music for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and Three Pianos has written the Music for Beowulf, while Jason Craig has provided the Book and Lyrics . It still consists of the tales of the three pursuits by Beowulf (Charlie Thurston), hero of the Geats, of the Great Mead Hall of Heorot presided over by Danish King Hrothgor (Joe Wilson, Jr.). He first slays the monster Grendel (Stephen Berenson), then the monster's Mother (Anne Scurria), and, about fifty years later, a Dragon (Janice Duclos), though he is then fatally injured. The tale has been the subject of numerous movies, television shows, novels (including graphic ones), music (opera, classical, rock opera), board games, and video games. This incarnation is not your eighth grade assignment, as there are many f-bombs dropped and a lot of the scat is scatological.

But it's all in good fun. We first meet three academics, Berenson, Scurria and Duclos, all discussing the merits of the poem. Soon we find our soldier of fortune taking off on that triple quest, like an ancient Don Quixote, accompanied by five Warriors (Rachel Warren, Rachel Clausen, Rebecca Gibel, Laura Lyman Paine, and Brad Wilson). They provide some great musical backup for such songs as Wilson's “That Was Death”, Thurston's “Passing” and Warren's astonishing showstopper, “Not Only”. The story is often somber and cynical (“better to retaliate than to mourn”, “his dark inevitability”), but mostly intelligently silly. The buff and ready Thurston makes an immediate and lasting impression as he struts and swaggers through each ordeal. The whole cast is in perfect harmony, visually and audibly. If there are standouts, they would have to be Scurria's shocked-little-girl reactions (priceless) and the low-tech overhead projected stick figures (very fang in cheek).

As Directed by Curt Columbus, this one is a winner for the company. The funny, complicated Set Design by Michael McGarty, Costume Design by Olivera Gajic, Lighting Design by Dan Scully, Sound Design by Peter Sasha Hurowitz, as well as Musical Direction by Michael Rice, Choreography by Jude Sandy and Puppet Design by Shoshanna Utchenik are all tremendous assets to the fast-paced show.
All in all, it's very high octane, high energy and hilarious. Being presented now through October 9th at Trinity Rep's Chase Theater, it's well worth revisiting Ye Auld English world. So broaden thy horizons and get thee to Heorot (sounds like “carrot”) for this raunchy, rousing and riotous romp. 

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