Andromoda Breaks Is Modern Take on Myth
If you missed Andromeda Breaks, a modern noir adaptation of the Greek myth of Andromeda and Perseus that is part of the Capital Fringe curated series, you missed one of the festival’s best shows this year.
Author Stephen Spotswood, a Fringe Festival staple, reimagines Andromeda Jackson (Billie Krishawn) as the daughter of a modern crime family; she’s been pulled into the police station for questioning by Det. Sgt. Percy. (Jeremy Keith Hunter). In Greek mythology, Andromeda was a young princess, the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Her mother boasted that she was more beautiful than any sea nymph, angering Poseidon, the god of the sea. As punishment, Poseidon sends a sea monster to ravage Andromeda, who has been stripped and chained to a rock as a sacrifice. She is ultimately rescued by Perseus, on his way home from slaying Medusa.
“The original story of Andromeda has surprisingly little Andromeda in it,” Spotswood writes in the playwright’s notes. But in his hands, the classic story becomes something new. Rather than a straightforward retelling of the damsel-in-distress myth, Andromeda Breaks is set in a modern police interrogation room, where Andromeda is handcuffed to a table and finally gets to set the record straight.
Andromeda was whisked away from her cousin Mini’s funeral and brought in for questioning. Percy was tipped off by an anonymous informant that Andromeda — the public face of her parents’ crime syndocate — has some blood on her hands, despite her virgin criminal record.
It should be noted that Mini is short for Wilhelmina Minos, a minotaur. Percy has made a name for himself by taking out nests of gorgons. Spotswood peppers the play with classical references while setting it in the present in a rural, economically stagnant American county, with a narcotics epidemic and all.
Andromeda Breaks has its foot in the worlds of both Southern gothic noir and classical mythology, and is full of knowing winks at the audience. The relationship between the play and its source material is truly delightful. The script manages to walk the line between mythical references and realistic dialogue.
The backbone of the piece is Krishawn’s delightful performance. From even before the lights come up, when we hear her singing a myth-infused spiritual, to her final triumphant cackle, Andromeda is the one at the helm of her own story. As the interview progresses, it becomes clear that Andromeda is not nearly as helpless, and Percy not nearly as cool under pressure, as it may first appear.
Nick Martin’s direction keeps things moving, and he cleverly finds ways to keep what could come off as static with two people talking in a single room dynamic instead.
“Sacrifices must be made” is a phrase that is repeated during the play, but it touches on a number of other thorny themes and asks some tough questions. Where is the line between being used by someone else, and being complicit in their actions because you are the one benefitting? What kind of choices would you be willing to make when you believe you are doing something wrong for the right reasons? Just how much do you owe a family that is willing to sacrifice you for crimes they committed? Spotswood doesn’t bother with answers.
Written by Stephen Spotswood
Directed by Nick Martin
Featuring Jeremy Hunter and Billie Krishwan
Lighting by Jason Aufdem-Brinke
Costumes by Amy MacDonald
Sound by Gordon Nimmo-Smith
Stage manager: Josie Felt
Performed in the Arena Stage’s Kogod Cradle, 1101 Sixth St. SW
Remaining performances: None