.World premiere of ‘Odyssey’ retells ancient myth


Marin Theater Company, in collaboration with New York’s The Acting Company, has opened its season with the world premiere of Lisa Peterson’s adaptation of Odyssey.

Set in a modern-day refugee camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece, the play tells the story of Homer’s epic interwoven with poignant personal stories of four young refugee women trying to find a home. The show runs in Mill Valley through Sep. 24.

Each woman tells her story as Homer’s narrative touches on her own experience, from Zamo Mlengana’s Zee, who is afraid of boats after her own harrowing journey over the Mediterranean, to Layla Khoshnoudi’s Anoud searching for a father who has been gone too long. Odysseus’ killing of the servant girls hits home for Anya Whelan-Smith’s trafficked Hana, and Sophie Zmorrod’s Béa understands how Odysseus could stand in his own land and not recognize it. But like every good story, along with the tragedy is humor and strength and a buoyancy of spirit that even their trials and tribulations cannot drown.

Like Odysseus, all four women come from violence. Their homes have been ripped away, and they have had to make choices that no person should be forced to make. But by focusing on the female perspective of the refugee experience, Peterson has interwoven grace and hope. These women do not need the goddesses to fight on their side or to fear the female monsters. And while they must all continue their personal Odysseys alone, they leave us with the sense that each has imprinted some of their wisdom and care on the others, making them both Athena and Odysseus, ethereal yet real and relatable.

It has been said that theater is nothing more than actors and a board—stage, not non-profit—and this production shows the truth in that statement. These four actors could be performing this play on a sidewalk with no props, sound, lights or costumes, and it would still be beautifully compelling theater.

Yet the technical elements here are outstanding. Lighting designer (Russell H. Champa) and scenic designer (Tanya Orellana) both achieved a level of technical artistry that is breathtaking in its own right. The seeming simplicity of the set coupled with the intricate light work could in and of itself be a show. On top of that, the sound design by Sinan Refik Zafar was clean and powerful, and Sarita Fellows’s costumes were executed with a precise eye for detail.

This is storytelling as it should be.

‘Odyssey’ runs Tues-Sun through Sept. 24 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. Tues-Sat, 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $43.50-$60.50. 415.388.5208. marintheatre.org.


  1. Don’t blame Homer for this. The Odyssey he wrote is a different story altogether.

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