Review

Undergraduate Theater Society’s ‘Anon(ymous)’ gives new take on classic tale through refugee’s lense

The show reimagines Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’

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The stories of migrants and refugees have been prevalent in the news in recent years. These stories are tales of war-ridden countries and sorrow, refugees leaving their homes behind to seek a better life for their families, but it often feels like these stories are not given the spotlight.

“Anon(ymous),” the latest production from the Undergraduate Theater Society (UTS), follows the story of refugee Anon, who was separated from her mother while attempting to escape her war-ridden country. Written by Naomi Iizuka, the play is a loose retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey” but gives the classic story a modern twist. 

Throughout the play, Anon faces obstacles like the ones Odysseus stumbles upon in Homer’s tale as she attempts to reunite with her mother, despite neither one of them knowing if the other is alive.

The play opens with Anon (Taylor Freeman) alone on stage, attempting to recount her story but unable to come up with the details: “Where I come from is far away from here.”

A chorus of refugees joins her on the stage, each sharing some of their own stories, pieces of their homes, why they left, and the trauma they’ve faced. The simple set of various pieces of blue, turquoise, yellow, and brown fabric hung on cables acts to highlight the actors’ emotional performances. 

As the sound swells, another character, a goddess named Naja (Em Dickenson), sends the chorus away, urging Anon to remember more of her past. Behind the sheets, the shadows of the refugees are cast, voicing their stories once again.

This use of the set to cast shadows is a recurring motif in the play, serving to heighten the drama. Throughout the play, a projector is used on the sheets; rain, stars, and waves are all cast onto the background, helping to immerse the audience in the story without being distracting

The lighting of the show is also used to differentiate between settings, which helps to give each location distinction which aids the minimal use of props and big set pieces.

Occasionally, the show is somewhat unclear as to how Anon’s journey is connected, as each obstacle seems distant and disjointed. However, toward the end of the play, these elements come together, helping to explain the chronology of the play. 

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A refresher on “The Odyssey” might be valuable before seeing the play, as references to the original would be better understood. However, not having a deep knowledge of the original would not hinder understanding the message of this production. 

The acting in “Anon(ymous)” is superb, with many cast members taking on a variety of roles but having the ability to make clear distinctions between each of them. Freeman does a fantastic job as Anon, conveying the deep trauma her character has experienced by showing her caution with others, while also showing moments of vulnerability. Thomas Hsu, who plays both a senator and Zycio, a crazed butcher who is similar to the cyclops Odysseus faces in the original tale, was especially excellent, giving distinct performances in each role.

UTS gives a content warning for this show noting that there is “violence, gore, war sounds/topics, trauma, loud noises, and bright flashing lights.” This warning is warranted given the deeply emotional nature of the show and is something to keep in mind if you’re interested in seeing it. 

“Anon(ymous)” gives a modern twist to a classic tale, while remaining relatable and emotional. Giving a look into the lives of refugees, this heartbreaking yet beautiful play is sure to resonate. 

The show’s remaining performances are Dec. 4 through 8 at the Cabaret Theater in Hutchinson Hall, with tickets starting at $5 for UW students.

Reach contributing writer McKenna Zacher at arts@daily.com Twitter: @mckennazacher

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