Strip away the romanticism and poetry of The Odyssey and insert the crass revelry of frat boy candor and you get Christopher Buehlman's Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka, a Jobsite Theater production now playing at the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center in Tampa.
Out-of-the-box expectations come early with the introduction of an African-American Aphrodite, the goddess of love, played by Andresia Moseley, and an overly randy half-goat god Pan, played by Jason Vaughan Evans.
The opening scene has them lay out their plot to infiltrate the house of Odysseus after the fall of Troy. Aphrodite, who is poised and elegant compared with her counterpart, seeks revenge for the destruction of her place of worship and plans to win over Penelope, Odysseus' wife, so she might once again have a temple erected in her honor. Pan simply wants to cause mischief and partake in any form of fornication available.
What follows is a heavy copulatory plot that overshadows any real theatrical points and character development. Pan's relentless perversion garners a few chuckles, but the sexual innuendos become overdone and annoying. Maybe that's the intention, but how many times can an adult laugh at the same juvenile punchline?
The three chauvinistic and drunken male suitors competing for Penelope's hand in marriage have the hormones of 15-year-old boys, and Penelope loathes them, naturally, as their characters are a turn-off and good for short laughs.
However, the three male actors find their real comedic uproar when they cross-dress to play the roles of the three female servants. Slake Counts, who is suitor Eurymakos and doubles as servant Xanthe, provides refreshing Monty Python-style comic relief in his female form.
Other cast standouts include Penelope's haggard servant and confidant, Eurykleia, a smirking dirty old woman played by Francine Wolf, who was easy to love; and the ambiguously gay/wimpy man-child Telemakos, son of Odysseus, played by Ricky Cona. His parts were brief, but a much welcomed change in comedic pace.
By the end, characters seemingly find humility and empowerment through unorthodox means, and for a brief moment Buehlman's adaptation is admirable, with a light-hearted yet debauchery-filled spin on mythology.
But a few trouble areas keep it from being successful.
The drastic juxtaposition of Greek diction mixed with coarse dialogue causes a disconnect in the fluidity of the performance.
There may have been attempts at deeper layers with subtle commentary of the battle of sexes, humans vs. gods and the dynamics of desire, but most everything gets clouded by a shaky plot overwrought with cheap humor and dirty jokes, leaving wittiness to be desired.