REVIEW: ‘Daughters of Leda’ rewrites the mythology you thought you knew
Stunning costumes and an intricate set make up for dense dialogue and a complex plot
Editor’s note: This story contains references to sexual assault.
For millennia, women have been the victims of slut-shaming, sexist jokes and demeaning ridicule. In the Department of Performing Arts’ production of “Daughters of Leda,” all of that is turned on its head as the quintessential stories of ancient womanhood are revisited through a feminist lens.
The play, written by Madeline Sayet, tells the story of Eve (from the legend of Adam and Eve) as she navigates the world having forgotten who she is. She travels to the underworld as she tries to find her mother.
Along the way, Eve (Lucille Rieke) meets lord of the underworld Hades (Finn Fairfield), his wife Persephone (Kate Lurie), the Fates (Jae K. Gee, Rachel Wiese and Megan Kempton), Leda (Sara Wiser) — along with her two daughters and three granddaughters — and a mysterious old woman (Anna Rose Steinmeyer) who keeps offering people apples.
The revolving cast of characters means the script is a bit crowded at times, as the play seems to juggle an A, B and C plot the way you would expect a sitcom to do. It isn’t until a third of the way through the show that we meet the titular character, Leda.
The play expects its audience to have prior knowledge of the mythology behind the characters, speeding through their histories to focus on the interweaving relationships on stage. Even the most dedicated Percy Jackson fan might be left confused as the characters swap insults informed by their backstories.
The climax of the show — when Alex/Eve meets Leda — might be one of the most memorable moments of the piece. Leda stares down Alex and Adam as they question her story. Alex believes that Leda and Zeus were simply lovers, but you could hear a pin drop in the room as Leda recounts how she was raped and manipulated by Zeus.
After Alex’s inquiries, Leda releases her daughters and granddaughters from being frozen in time, causing a chaos that only someone with multiple sisters could recognize as they snipe at each other over who slept with who and who murdered who.
Each of the daughters of Leda is written perfectly. Led by sisters Helen (Zoe Babbit) and Clytemnestra (Sirra Faal), and her daughters Chrysothemis (Evelyn Micacci), Iphigenia (Rachel Lipetz) and Electra (Emma Altrichter), each daughter is written to have a distinct personality that’s perfectly encapsulated in the styling of their hair and the gowns that each wears.
All the while, Persephone is working with the Fates — who come through with some great comedic timing — to mastermind the daughters’ great escape from Hades’ realm.
Ultimately, the twisting in and out of different plot points does get confusing as we switch from Adam and Alex/Eve’s search for her mother, the daughters’ fights and Persephone’s use of the Fates to manipulate Hades. The play is ambitious — perhaps too ambitious for the black box studio that it’s set in, but the cast shines nonetheless.
“Daughters of Leda” is showing in the Katzen Arts Center’s Studio Theatre from Nov. 1-4. Tickets are free for students, $10 for faculty and staff and $15 for the general public.
This article was edited by Sara Winick, Patrica McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Charlie Mennuti.