For Western culture, the story of Psyche and Eros exists as a kind of mytho-religio-literary singularity, a foundational narrative of heroic romantic and erotic love whose DNA is shot through our folklore ("Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Beauty and the Beast") as well as our psychoanalytic theory.
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But if its poetic resonances run deep, its epic jumble of capricious gods, fantastic labors, virtuous heroine and her iniquitous sisters, along with a host of anthropomorphized supporting players, proves a cumbersome and tedious tale to represent in toto even on the musical stage, at least if this premiere of composer-librettist Cindy Shapiro’s Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera is any measure.
Michael Starr as Eros looks sexy enough in E.B. Brooks’ steampunk-accented costume design, and Ashley Ruth Jones as Psyche sounds pretty enough, belting her way through Shapiro’s double-album’s worth of somewhat monotonous power ballads and ethereal, hymnlike rockers (under Jack Wall’s expert musical direction).
But not even director Michael Matthews’ sumptuously animated, Baroque staging (on Stephen Gifford’s architectural capriccio set, with Tim Swiss’ chiaroscuro-sculpted lights) can finally forgive Shapiro’s seemingly endless 34-song score and her over-ambitious but under-adapted book.
Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; through Sept. 28. (323) 655-7679, psycherockopera.com.