“This is the setup for the show,” opens Hawksley Workman, wine in hand, decked out in eyeshadow and stubble, off the top of The God That Comes. It isn’t a part of the show then, but as he keeps talking, it really is: Workman’s effectively acting the part of the Greek chorus, explaining the arc, giving him a sense of the room, and us a sense of what we’re in for. Which, it turns out, is a rollicking, teetering, boozy good time.
The God That Comes, his and Christian Barry’s re-envisioning of The Bacchae, offers the sort of drunken revelry that rarely gets this lively and fun on a live stage. It’s a personality-driven celebration of hedonistic revelries in the face of would-be constraint, and Workman’s certainly up to the task of seducing you onto his side.
The arc’s simple, and is what Workman lays out in the set-up: tyrannical, repressed king has issues with the god of pleasure taking up residence on the nearby mountain, where the people go and orgy all night. He interrogates the deity; the latter convinces him to don a dress and go see what the parties are all are about. And there, he’s torn to pieces when the hungry revelers take him to be wild game—the modern-day equivalent of being mistaken for a late-night pizza, I guess.
Working through that, Workman goes from keys to drums to guitar to ukulele and back, donning a couple of hats and costumes along the way. You get songs like “Ukelady Boy” and “The Dress Makes The Man,” and a particularly well-placed harmonica solo. Show coda “They Decided Not To Like Us” is the most likely candidate to pop up at a non-God Workman concert in the future, but everything else easily holds its own in the context, particularly thanks to Workman’s presence. His face curls and snarls and winks as he delivers lines like “If your prayer is a dress / do you wear it low-cut?”
It’s all playful, often raunchy, and pretty hypnotic to see unfurl: Workman does a tightrope strut of performance aplomb and boozy indulgence. It feels like it could teeter over the edge at any point, but that’s half the fun: some of The God’s highlights are when Workman’s clearly vamping, stretching out the moments to match the mood in the room. Occasionally he pushes a step too far, but he’s a strong enough performer to bring it back just as quick.
There’s a subtle political statement being made here, I suppose, about the people in charge’s demand for control and disconnect from what the people want, but it’s ultimately background here. Same goes for the Greek myth’s darker edges: what wins out is the amorous mood of the God.
And on that note: in its celebration of sex and wine and revelry The God That Comes apparently doubles as an aphrodisiac onto itself—in the middle of Saturday night’s performance, a couple allegedly snuck into a stairwell mid-show, where they were caught bumpin’ uglies by Citadel staff. On one hand, if you’re going to proclaim yourself “master of fertility” in a show, as Workman does here, you better damn well prove it. On the other: when was the last time you heard of a piece of theatre responsible for a mid-show tryst?
Until Sat, Jan 25 (8 pm)
Directed by Christian Barry
Citadel Theatre, $45 – $73.50