PROMETHEUS, ArtWorx International Ensemble, at the Chopin Theatre. Back in the middle of the fifth century BC, when the Athenians got their first peek at the despot-defying hero of Aeschylus’ Prometheus trilogy, the memory of tyrants like Peisistratus of Athens, Lygdamis of Naxos, and Polycrates of Samos was still fresh. Contemporary Americans have no analogous collective memory, making the declaration-heavy, action-free Prometheus Bound–the only surviving play of the trilogy–seem quaint and irrelevant.

Director Lisa Muller-Jones tries to compensate by encouraging her Prometheus to scream, writhe, and gnash his teeth for the better part of the hour he spends chained to a make-believe rock downstage center. But Greek drama is no more about displays or ersatz agony than Jerry Springer is about meaningful debate. Her actors get so worked up trying to convince us that Prometheus is really shackled in agony (when the chains that supposedly bind him lie in a loose pile at his feet) that they obliterate the lyrical sense of Aeschylus’ text.

In the second act, playwright Matt Morich updates the myth to a military-corporate encampment 10,000 years hence, where the Furies give the PR-minded Zeus periodic updates on Prometheus via cell phone. The glib hipness is refreshing after the humorless first act, but with the exception of Nadirah Bost as the terminally cranky Zeus, the actors don’t find compelling reasons to retell the ancient myth. It remains quaint and irrelevant. –Justin Hayford