‘A Greek comedy, tragically’ | AspenTimes.com

‘A Greek comedy, tragically’

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times

If You Go …

What: ‘The Generations of Tantalus,’ presented by Hudson Reed Ensemble

Where: Old Aspen Art Museum grounds

When: Friday, Aug. 21, Saturday, Aug. 22; Friday, Aug. 28, Saturday, Aug. 29, 5:30 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: Bring your own chairs, picnics, blankets; http://www.hudsonreedensemble.org

Tantalus was doomed to eternal thirst and hunger, standing in water that receded from his lips below branches of fruit just out of reach. His son, Pelops, was cut into pieces and turned into a stew for the gods. Such tales of torture, murder and mythological Greek mayhem are fodder for farce in Todd Hartley’s new play, “The Generations of Tantalus.”

The Hudson Reed Ensemble is staging the comedy this weekend and next weekend at the old Aspen Art Museum grounds, in a new spin on the company’s traditional late August Shakespeare in the Park productions.

“I call it a Greek comedy, tragically,” Hartley. said

A comedian and Aspen Times columnist, Hartley has been a fan of Greek mythology since childhood. At some point, he stumbled on how ridiculously funny the exploits of Tantalus and his progeny could be.

“I’ve always been a Greek myth fan, and I’m not sure how it happened, but I realized this succession from Tantalus to his son Pelops to his sons, they just do horrible, horrible things,” he recalled. “And I said, ‘This is too funny not to be a comedy.’”

He wrote out some of the wildest stories in Greek mythology and the new play emerged in six successive sketches in the outlandish tradition of Mel Brooks and Monty Python.

Hartley’s script has made the rounds in the Aspen theater community over the past few years, making fans of Hudson Reed founder Kent Reed and of Mike Monroney, who is directing the debut production. In July, the six-member cast started workshopping and fine-tuning the one-hour show, which will open on today at 5:30 p.m.

“We just throw anything at the wall, and if it’s funny we keep it,” said Hartley, who plays the narrator Professor Chorus (and has grown out a beard to look the part). “It’s been an interesting process, because I’ve been changing the script as we go and (Monroney) has been directing the lines in different ways. It’s coming together, and I think it’s going to be really fun.”

The five additional members of the cast — Brad Moore, Kathy Pelowski, Jesse Monsalve, Danielle Erickson and Troy Fantini — swap roles throughout, taking on four and five toga-clad parts apiece.

Following a rehearsal last week, Hartley reported the first test audience gave “The Generations of Tantalus” a good review: “Last night this drunk homeless guy watched and laughed, so we’re on the right track.”