With considerable understatement, a principal character sums up Homer’s “The Odyssey” as “Epic story short” in playwright Melissa James Gibson’s one-act play, “Current Nobody,” receiving its world premiere in a first-rate production by D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. She could have said “funky, too.”
Gibson has turned the tables in this modern-day treatment by sending Odysseus’ wife, Pen (Christina Kirk), on the 20-year adventure while long-suffering husband Od (Jesse Lenat) remains at home to raise a young daughter. The woman is a war photographer assigned to cover the battle of Troy, which drags on and on (sound familiar?). En route home, she is captured and imprisoned on a far-away isle while Od’s urban condo is invaded by a trio of marauding documentary filmmakers.
An extremely inventive Gibson (“[sic]”) toys with the saga and its predicaments while laying out a bittersweet tale of love and loneliness as the small family counts the days of separation. She mixes video, screen projections and an array of sound effects to create an entertaining high-tech overlay to lyrically written dialogue with a deft comic touch. As usual, her script is written without punctuation.
Clad in blue pajamas throughout, an anguished Lenat stalks about Tony Cisek’s stark bedroom set marking the days of Pen’s absence and attentively parenting daughter Tel (Casie Platt) from crib to adulthood. He is effective as the increasingly lost soul, a “nobody” struggling with the grim reality of abandonment.
“Current Nobody” arrives at Woolly in polished shape from extensive workshops, including a Sundance Theater Lab residency in 2006. Director/collaborator Daniel Aukin, former a.d. at Soho Rep, stages the play with great sensitivity as Gibson emphasizes the domestic void over the adventurer’s exploits.
An even ensemble of veterans presents Gibson’s quirky tale with care. Kirk offers exactly the right mix of stoicism and comic timing as the ultimate career mom clad in photojournalist’s vest. Platt is enjoyable as the feisty daughter who pines after the mother she never knew, while Woolly regular Michael Willis figures as the condo’s blunt and protective doorman. Deb Gottesman, Kathryn Falcone and Jessica Dunton are the licentious documentary team shooting the beleaguered subjects from every conceivable angle, projected brightly on the wall behind.