Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad Offers a New Perspective on a Classic Piece of Literature

The Penelopiad, directed by Megan Follows, is a product of significant pieces of literature written by two well-known authors in our literary canon. Margaret Atwood’s novel The Penelopiad was published in 2005 and explores the events of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, the sequel to The Iliad. Atwood’s novel and the play do not follow the adventures of Odysseus himself, played by Praneet Akilla, but rather his wife, Penelope, played by Seana McKenna. The focus on Penelope opens up a new, exciting perspective for those who have read The Odyssey. In contrast, the play provides enough detail that audience members do not need to be familiar with Homer’s works. Both types of audience member are given the opportunity to witness an amalgamation of literary genius and a cast and crew that gives justice to the source material.

The new perspective that is presented through Penelope is both witty and frightening as audience members learn the true weight of Odysseus’ actions. The play includes a few songs that vary in genre, ranging from a haunting playground song to a broadway-style number. The Greek chorus that performs these numbers is comprised of nine women and one man who fully immerse themselves into the roles that they are playing. Their various roles include maids, suitors, and Penelope’s family members. The chorus lives up to the challenge of playing these vastly different characters, often removing or adding one piece of their costume on stage to symbolize the change. The costuming helps audience members remember the different characters and the use of facial expressions and body language helps support these quick changes. In a scene where Penelope addresses her suitors, the chorus seamlessly turns from aggressive, loud men into a group of Penelope’s dedicated maids.