Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Iota of Ion

by J J Cohen

Last night I took my son Alex to the Shakespeare Theatre's production of Ion. This play by Euripides isn't performed all that much, possibly because the plot is so slender, but the comedy does have an existentially troubling core (the unresolved question of why gods who demand justice would lie to mortals). This production did what it could with the material, adding some levitating divinities, a Chorus who sang iin a catchy R&B style as the play closed, and a sprinkling of comic anachronisms.

Ion, the main character, is the rape-engendered child of Apollo and Queen Creusa. Abandoned as a baby, he becomes the temple janitor at the Oracle of Delphi. You probably have read one of the many articles about how the notoriously equivocal prophetesses at Delphi attained their trancelike states by inhaling fumes [pneuma] from the mountain -- fumes that possibly containing ethylene or some other noxious compound. Alex learned a little about this chemically induced prophesying from Mr. Hegedus, his social studies teacher, but misremembered the details. "Dad," he whispered to me as the play began, "did you know that Oracle of Delphi was always high on crack?" Yes I did, I wanted to say, and Hermes was her dealer. No one could catch him, and the delivery service was amazing.