Dallas — PrismCo continues its dedication to the exploration of ancient tales through an original production of Midas, written by Katy Tye and directed by Jeffrey Colangelo. This production, which is sponsored by the Striped Heart, results from the collaboration between PrismCo and My Possibilities, a nonprofit organization that provides educational opportunities to adults with cognitive challenges.
The story of King Midas from Greek mythology is in three parts: the wish, the curse, and the atonement. Midas, a ruler of immense wealth with a love for gold, asked the god Dionysus for a simple wish, “I hope that everything I touch becomes gold.” His wish was granted with a warning that today is often translated as ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Midas awakened the next day to find that indeed, everything he touched turned to gold, including living things which threatened the food supply and cost him the lives of his family. Sympathetic to Midas’ plight and his plea for reversal, Dionysus gave him an out. If King Midas washed his hands in the river Pactolus, all would be reversed. He complied. All of the gold was washed away from him and into the shore (thus explaining the presence of gold in the soil). Having learned to value people over gold, Midas ruled and loved happily ever after.
Tye’s treatment of the tale does not have this happy ending and instead works from the premise that King Midas is alone after having turned everything to gold. Hungry for human contact, he takes the audience on a tour of his house and an immersion into his story through the house’s artifacts.
The production is mounted in the Oak Cliff Cultural Center (OCCC) which houses an art gallery that becomes King Midas’ house, functioning as a sort of museum. Some of the paintings developed for this production were created by student and artist Sara Oleksy, who was present for the Oct. 14 performance. Another student, Scott Walker, created the featured full-round sculpture, a large gold nugget.
The three-program segments occur in different spaces within the OCCC, and the audience is guided in pied-piper 360° fashion from area one, to area two, and back to area one. King Midas (Rafael Tamayo) reflects on his past, and the events leading up to the loss of his actual wealth, his family.
While a few chairs are present, the audience stands through the entire performance. The reason for this is that the performance seeks to achieve immersiveness through interactivity, transferring audience members out of their role as observers and into the role of participants. This audience engagement effectively keeps the viewer interested in and focused on the action in the playing area. However, a standing audience also presents a challenge for individuals seated because of mobility constraints. Because the design assumes a standing audience, the view of seated individuals is largely blocked during the first segment. In the first segment, Tamayo uses a lot of magic (guided by consultant Trigg Watson), but most of that work was unseen. Resulting from that limitation, this review is of the second and third segments only.
In the second segment, the audience meets King Midas’ first son and warrior (Jonah Gutierrez), and his second son and tightrope walker (Samuel Cress). Their bodies are completely covered in gold. This is a wordless production with the actors using movement, gestures, and utterances to communicate with each other, and with the audience. Tamayo, Cress and Gutierrez have an infectious rapport and manage to communicate such that the audience starts to understand their non-lingual utterances as language.
Music, merriment and laughter define segment two, with movement choreographed by Tye. Cress has a wonderfully funny walking-the-tightrope scene that includes juggling. Jake Nice’s music is present during the entire performance but has more importance and symbolism (referential to the music of Pan) during the second segment. Gutierrez’s lighting design helps to distinguish the present time from Midas’ reflections on the past.
In the third segment, the audience returns to area one for the grand feast. Kyndra Mac is lovely as Queen Midas. Debbie Crawford brings the childishness of their daughter to the story convincingly, evoking the requisite sadness when she, as the only family member still alive, cannot resist her father’s touch and is transformed into a statue of gold. As with the sons, Cassandra and Crawford are completely covered in gold. The only person who is not golden is King Midas. In the final scene, he is the only thing visible that is not golden. We leave King Midas where he was before our arrival, alone.
The tale of King Midas, like so many of the classical myths, has several iterations. There are differences regarding the names of Midas’ children and his interactions with Dionysus. But the core of the story is universally one of value, worth and materialism. PrismCo’s production of Midas is true to that center as they have again devised a way of telling story that is completely unexpected.