The first thing I noticed when Joe Medeiros arrived in Central Park to perform his one-man play based on the Odyssey was that he was wearing calf-high black socks decorated with anchors.
It became clear the socks were no accident.
Joe is meticulous and everything he did during his performance of Telemachus Rides Again was carefully planned.
He arrived from Queens on a mountain bike with a large suitcase perched on a custom cargo rack.
The suitcase contained a multitude of props and the bike later played a crucial role in the play.
The show consists of a dramatic recitation of book two of the Odyssey, entirely in Ancient Greek.
There are multiple costume changes (I counted at least seven T-shirts), along with props including a watermelon that stands in for a pig roast.
If that sounds daunting to follow, well it was!
If it sounds inaccessible…. Well, less than you might think.
In part that’s because Joe does an amazing job using visual aids to tell the story.
Also because you cannot help but be awed by Joe’s commitment.
Listening to him chant Ancient Greek is hypnotic, especially in the setting of a glade in Central Park close to Strawberry Fields. (You could faintly hear strains of John Lennon’s Imagine being played by a guitarist in the background.)
The plot runs as follows: Odysseus is stuck on the island of Ogygia while a mob of suitors pursue his wife Penelope. His son Telemachus presses them to leave.
At one point Telemachus sails to Pylos and Sparta in search of news about his father (that explains the socks with anchors that Joe wears for the performance.)
Joe is passionate about Ancient Greek. He taught himself the language and later studied at Columbia University.
He plans to memorize and perform each of the 24 books of the Odyssey (12,109 lines of dactylic hexameter) and eventually combine them into a 24-hour show.
It’s the kind of intensity that reminds you how New York inspires creative people.
The project may take Joe as long to complete as it took Odysseus to get home.
But I hope he sticks with it.
I would love to return year after year to see how his story turns out