So there were scenes played out on a bare stage with rehearsal chairs and much explanation of what the play was supposed to accomplish. The looming central idea, however, was that the gods of another epoch and the Hindu faith were descending into Nazi-occupied Poland in order to confront the leader of a cult dedicated to the persecution and extinction of people with disabilities.
"It's a play about power," the director explained, to which one of the impaired wistfully replied, "Then it should be a good play!" with a twist of sarcasm. Name a play that isn't about power.
PHOTO BY ED KRIEGER
Doug Tompos, left, PaSean Wilson and Angela Bullock in Cassiopeia
The juxtapositions here were lucid. Ryan's director got so exasperated with his wards, and their droll, ongoing critique of the play and the process, that he turned on one of them, violently, so that the rest had to gang up and banish the director from the hall. Yes, a play about power, in which the "director" was a microcosm of Nazi megalomania.
Mark Cuthbertson's production design, blended with Andrew Livingston's lighting, employed a series of translucent plastic curtains that, when pulled across the stage's width, transformed the playing space into a mythical and magical place that was incomparably transcendent without being in the least bit slick.
The production never let you forget that it was being performed by mortals, not gods — some overweight, some with speech impediments, some who moved awkwardly. This was integrally tied to its larger purpose, an examination of mythology and how that relates to what it means to be human.
CASSIOPEIA | By David Wiener | Boston Court Theatre, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 20, 8 p.m.; through Feb. 24 | (626) 683-6883 | bostoncourt.com
GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH | Presented by Australia's Back to Back Theatre | Ralph Freud Playhouse, UCLA | Closed