"Prometheus Bound": C'mon baby, light my fire

by Simon de Carvalho '14

The myth of Prometheus has been around since the 8th century B.C.: Prometheus, a Titan, gave fire to humanity and was consequently bound to a rock while an eagle ate his liver day after day as punishment by Zeus.

The key to this story is the power of the force that Prometheus garnered. Fire is simultaneously beautiful and horrid, destructive and life giving; fire is pure energy.

Fittingly, Prometheus Bound, the Oberon’s take on the myth (running through April 2—tickets info is here) is energetic. The show, directed by Diane Paulus (Donkey Show and Hair), written by Steven Sater (Spring Awakening) with music by Serj Tankian of alternative metal band System of a Down, is a raucous and wild 80 minutes of fun—with a message.

What’s really exciting about this show is that the energy goes somewhere; it has a focal point. There is something driving this musical, something that makes it necessary: ART has partnered with Amnesty International as well as local Boston activists in dedicating the run of Prometheus Bound to the causes of 8 "Amnesty Appeals," efforts by Amnesty International to secure freedom for wrongfully imprisoned people in nations such as Iran, Democratic Repuiblic of Congo, Vietnam and Uganda.

The performance I attended was dedicated to the causes of three Vietnamese prisoners, Tran Quoc Hien, Doan Van Dien and Doan Huy Chuong. At the end of the show, cast members asked for audience support in the effort, and encouraged us to sign postcards urging for the release of the prisoners.

The important thing with Prometheus is that you can tell that these actors really care. They’re impassioned, enthusiastic and dedicated, and all of that shines through in the talented performances. The choreography (by Stephen Petronio) has the characters running and dancing their way through the entire Oberon space, from the floor to the bar to the balcony to the tables in the seated section, and they did so vigorously and smoothly.

Tankian’s music—which at times was not far from his System of a Down days—was appropriate for the atmosphere. One number had the entire cast headbanging amidst the audience!

In the end, Prometheus Bound is effective precisely because it is raucous while still being appropriately serious: This powerful and timeless story is rendered here with high energy, some seriously rocking music, even a few laughs—like when Hermes, coughing on his cigarette smoke, mutters "Jesus Christ!"—while still being reverent to its cause.

This show will get you riled up, and about all the right things. You’ll leave energized, perhaps moved, maybe even with a fire lit—a feeling of empowerment, a call to arms against injustice.

And this is exactly the kind of fire Prometheus gave us.

[Caption: PROMETHEUS BOUND plays through April 2 at Oberon. PHOTO: Marcus Stern]