How to respond to a production in which every element seems just right? Dancing in the streets seems excessive, yet a gratified murmur hardly does it justice. Coming in at 90 minutes and change, Stephen Mitchell's version of the Mesopotamian myth, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs and directed with clarity and elegance by Sachs and Jessica Kubzansky, sets the standard for pocket-sized epics.
The sound design at the top of the show (Ellen Juhlin and Kari Rae Seekins) establishes an exotic, otherworldly tone that perfectly serves the story. It would seem there's not much to Melissa Ficociello's spare set design, beautifully lit by Jeremy Pivnick, yet in retrospect one remembers the forests, the deserts, the tunnels, the seas, everything the two limn so clearly with so little. So, too, Alex Jaeger's costumes, which consist largely of simple draped shapes in earth tones; when he wants to make a statement, however, be it regal or erotic, he does so with élan.
As impressive as these contributions are, they never overshadow the story, ostensibly, as per the program, a political parable but frankly, to these rheumy eyes, rather a hot piece of man-on-man action. Gilgamesh, in a towering performance by DeObia Oparei, is the omnipotent ruler who "savages his own flock," causing them to summon his nemesis, Enkidu (an impressive Will Watkins). Sure, they fight at first (Josh Gordon's estimable work on fisticuffs), but the mother of Gilgamesh (Fran Bennett in a noteworthy performance) has interpreted one of his dreams and determines that he is to hold this creature as closely as "a man caresses his wife." It's as if she's the proto-PFLAG. The relationship endures an abnormal amount of strife, monster-slaying being but one incident (and, again, richly layered sound during this portion), nor does it end on a high note, but it's affecting nevertheless. Never a false note is hit by other cast members Cynthia Boorujy, Jack Kandel, Newton Kaneshiro, Shaheen Vaaz, and Necar Zadegan.
Presented by and at the [email protected] Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Mar. 3-Apr. 8. (626) 683-6883. www.bostoncourt.org.