The Wander Years

A while back, the New Yorker’s magisterial Hilton Als mentioned playwright Marcus Gardley’s immense talent and called him “a potentially great writer who has yet to write a great play.” Gardley’s latest work, Black Odyssey, which was featured in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s New Play Summit last year and is receiving its world premiere this month, may just be that play.

A poetic work of myth and memory, speech and song, gods and men, it tells the story of Ulysses, a decorated black soldier returning from combat in the Gulf. In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses wanders for ten years after the Trojan War, encountering storms, dangers and battles, a one-eyed giant and an enchantress who turns men into swine. The dreamlike encounters of Gardley’s protagonist occur within himself, as he seeks a home within his own history and culture.

Still in his thirties, Gardley is the recipient of many honors, including the PEN/Laura Pels award for a mid-career playwright. Black Odyssey’s large cast makes it a difficult play to stage, and Gardley is particularly grateful to the DCTC for taking it on. He is also grateful for last year’s opportunity to hone the work, “rewriting every day and hardly sleeping,” he told Westword then. “The Summit is the greatest gift.”

Black Odyssey opens today and runs through February 16 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets are $35-$45; for showtimes and information, call 303-893-4100 or go to
Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 1:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 6:30 p.m.; Feb. 7-8, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m. Starts: Jan. 17. Continues through Feb. 16, 2014