Review of Clash of the Titans at Cherokee Street Theatre

    Cherokee Street Theatre has returned with another one of its delightful pop culture parodies. This time the object of the genial satire is the original version of Clash of the Titans. It was based on the myth of Perseus and Andromeda and incorporated elements from other legends, including Pegasus (the winged horse from Greek mythology) and the Kraken (a sea monster from Norwegian legend).

    The 1981 film is best remembered for its special effects and its starry cast. The special effects were by Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop motion animation, in his last film before retiring. The cast included Harry Hamlin, as Perseus, Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera, Maggie Smith as Thetis, and Burgess Meredith as Ammon. St. Louis theatergoers with long memories may recall two other cast members from their appearances here. Jack Gwillim (Poseidon) played Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet at The Rep in 1982. Siân Phillips (Cassiopeia) played Madam Armfeldt in A Little Night Music at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

    Clash of the Titans was adapted for the stage and directed for Cherokee Street by Suki Peters. Her masterly script condenses the screenplay into a little over an hour without obvious gaps in the story. I don’t think I would have had any trouble following the action even if I had not recently streamed the film.

    The advantage of watching the movie before the adaptation is that I was better able to appreciate the way Cherokee Street dealt with the special effects. Among the cleverest replacement effects were the destruction of Argos, Zeus’s head magically speaking from within Perseus’s shield, the appearance of footprints in the sand when Perseus was wearing his helmet of invisibility, the movement of a tossed weapon, the portrayal of the three women who shared one eye, the flight of Pegasus, and the decapitation of the gorgon Medusa. One did not need to know anything about the movie’s Kraken to appreciate the humor in Cherokee Street’s version of the sea monster. I won’t spoil that surprise.

    The Cherokee cast members were fully invested in their parts and adopted a consistent style that brought out the humor of the parody. The excellent performers were:

    • Ronald Dean Strawbridge as Zeus
    • Ryan Lawson Maeske as Perseus
    • Fox Smith as Hera and Medusa
    • Patience Davis as Thetis and Dame Maggie Smith
    • Payton Gillam as Aphrodite and Andromeda
    • Joseph Garner as Calibos and Bubo, the mechanical owl
    • Nancy Nigh as Athena and Cassiopeia
    • Rob McLemore as Ammon
    • Stan Davis as Poseidon and Thallo
    • Chuck Brinkley as King Acrisius and Hades

    The production was admirably supported the work of lighting designer Joel Wilper, sound designers Ted Drury and Morgan Maul Smith, video designer Dan Foster, costume coordinator Kayla Lindsay, props master Stan Davis, fight director Ryan Lawson Maeske, and stage nanager Abigail Lampe.

    Clash of the Titans continues through June 1 at The Golden Record, 2720 Cherokee Street. The reopens at the Westport Playhouse on June 9 and runs Fridays and Saturday through June 17. For more information, consult Cherokee Street Theatre’s website.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Anastasiya Vasyuta
    Clockwise from the left, Patience Davis as Thetis, Stan Davis as Poseidon, Ronald Dean Strawbridge as Zeus, Fox Smith as Hera, Nancy Nigh as Athena, and Payton Gillam as Aphrodite in
    Clash of the Titans.