Star-Bulletin Features

Leeward Community College's "The Epic of Gilgamesh" is a thought-provoking production.

Imaginative 'Gilgamesh'
a refreshing change

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin

LEEWARD Community College Theatre goes back to the beginning of written fiction with its ambitious production of "The Epic of Gilgamesh." The story dates from around 3000 B.C. and exists thanks to Assurbanipal ("King of the World, King of Assyria") who in the eighth century B.C. collected ancient Sumerian cuneiform texts and had them translated into the Akkadian Semitic script of his time. "Gilgamesh" was found in the long-buried ruins of his library and translated by English archaeologists a century ago.

This adaptation is described as an "original dramatization." It moves slowly and often relies on the dramatic conventions of classic Greek theater and the "sword and sandal" epics of the 1950s. However, it is also imaginative, thought-provoking, and a refreshing alternative for theater fans.

Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, is two-thirds god and one-third mortal; LCC writes him as one-half Schwarzenegger and one half super-stud. A coalition of gods creates another preternaturally powerful figure, Enkidu, and arrange to have him raised by animals.

Gilgamesh learns of Enkidu's existence and dispatches a "child of pleasure" to seduce him. Sex with a human breaks Enkidu's ties to the animals and he goes with her to Uruk. The two super men meet, fight, become friends, and embark on adventures against formidable enemies.

The body-builder physiques of Q, who plays Gilgamesh, and Gavin Henry Joseph Kamalu G.Q. Vinta, who portrays Enkidu, are visually imposing. Both actors also succeed in capturing the qualities that make the characters multi-faceted flawed heroes.

Gilgamesh eventually seeks to conquer death by learning the secret of eternal life. He journeys with the boatman Urshanabi (Jason "Not Scott" Lee) across the waters of death to the dominion of the wise and world-weary immortal Utnapishtim (Allen Fanning).

Lee earned several laughs last weekend. Other standouts include Mane playing mercurial goddess Ishtar as a vengeful earth mother, dancing scorpions Daniel L. Balmores and Adrieanne Reyes Rivera, and Willow Chang as the belly dancing "child of pleasure."

Director Paul Cravath, choreographer Jack Boyle, musical director John Signor and script adapter Phillip Bullington interpolate considerably in fitting the story to the expectations of contemporary Americans. Gods and mortals speak in stilted cadences; did Sumerians never speak informally? Belly dancing and Arabian music fit American images of the middle east but did either exist in the time of Gilgamesh?

Donald Ranney (sets/lighting) creates interesting performance areas. A battle in a cedar forest and Gilgamesh's descent to the bottom of the sea are imaginatively staged. So is Utnapishtim's account of the great flood that covered the earth.

Ginette Pitre's costumes effectively build on traditional expectations regarding attire.

Imaginative 'Epic'

What: "The Epic of Gilgamesh"

When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Leeward Community College Theatre

Cost: $8-10

Call: 455-0385

Do It Electric!

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