George Mann‘s “Odyssey” is a dazzling masterclass in acting

By Lucy Komisar

George Mann as Odysseus, photo John Rankin.

George Mann‘s performance in “Odyssey,” the Homer classic, is a tour de force. Directed by Nir Paldi, who co-authored the adaptation with Mann, it is stunning, overwhelming, brilliant. Mann‘s voice takes on the sounds of a musical scale, like a many-stringed orchestra. His movements are striking physical theater. He creates time and space peopled by a cast of dozens. He gives a masterclass in acting.

There is no set, just Mann on the stage, with subtle lighting and sometimes a fully lit theater.

Dressed in black pants that reach his shins, t-shirt and sneakers, his Odysseus tells us how he has spent ten years fighting in the Trojan war and nine years fighting to get home, detained by a collection of mishaps and evil creatures.

Meanwhile, his wife Penelope is besieged by 118 suitors who insist she marry one of them, but she will not do so till she knows her husband is dead.

The gods want to help Odysseus return. Athena tells his son Telemachus to sail to speak to the kings who fought alongside his father to find out where he is.

George Mann as Odysseus, photo John Rankin.

How do you mime a spirit god from Mt. Olympus? Mann‘s fingers flutter robustly to call up the god Hermes.

Wooshes represent the women feeding soldiers lotus leaves to keep them entranced and prevent their leaving.

Odysseus‘s meeting and ingenious defeat of the monstrous one-eyed Cyclops is a sci fi thriller. Mann brandishes his arms and hands in bloody sword play.

Then he turns into an old man, a beggar, and with the help of Athena wreaks gory vengeance on Penelope‘s suiters.

Over the course of an hour, you feel as if you‘ve watched a cast of hundreds in a film which could not be more creative, intense and dramatic than this one-man show.

Odyssey.” Written and adapted by George Mann and Nir Paldi; directed by Nir Paldi. Theatre Ad Infinitum at Pleasance Ten Dome, Edinburgh Festival Fringe. August 2017. 8/16/17.

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