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The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus: Musical myth-busting

Musical myth-busting

Dionysus gets his groove back with clothing-optional requisite Greek chorus
Photo: Andrea Hausmann

The god with a rep for debauchery breaks into song, dance and self-doubt in The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus

Got the February blues? Feeling the desire to escape, perhaps by plunging head-first into the secret rites of spiritual ecstasy? Well, Dionysus, god of wine and patron of the arts, knows how to shake the mundane from our psyches via excess and debauchery. In honour of the patron god of the stage, Mainline Theatre brings forth The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus, a one-man show with a Greek chorus that promises to chase away the winter doldrums with all manner of bacchanalia.

Mainline artistic director Jeremy Hechtman agrees that this is probably not suitable theatre for children, but adds: "Dionysus is all about indulging in pleasure, be it wine or overeating. Ironically, children often relate to the Dionysian philosophy because, unlike adults who often feel shame for surrendering to excess, children haven’t been conditioned to feel that kind of remorse."

This production is the second original musical that Mainline has staged; the first, Johnny Canuck and the Last Burlesque, was a 2006 collaboration between Hechtman, Mainline general manager Patrick Goddard and composer Nick Carpenter. "The idea for The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus has been kicking around for years," Hechtman says. The origins of the play sprang from autobiography: "I remember when I was 20 years old, I could drink and party all night and then roll out of bed the next morning and head off to school. That said, even though there is a twinge of autobiography to the play, I didn’t want the play to be about me."

Enter actor Paul Van Dyck, who shaped the role by imprinting his personality onto the middle-aged god. "I felt the Dionysus character was underwritten – that allowed Paul to define the character and make it his own," Hechtman laughs. "When we were younger, Paul and I both experienced nights that neither of us can remember. So it wasn’t a huge leap for him to embody that debauched state of mind; his understanding of the Dionysian life stems from personal experience."

The artistic director considers Dionysus relevant in today’s modern era, his influence reaching across time in literature, music and pop culture: "Children of the god of wine, women and song include such notables as John Belushi, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. It’s that energy they embraced that we’re tapping into."

The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus
At Mainline Theatre (3997 St-Laurent Blvd.), to March 6
www.mainlinetheatre.ca

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