In 1979, Terra Ziporyn ’80 wrote a musical script based on the Greek myth of “Cupid and Psyche.” Wanting to bring the script to the Yale stage, she searched for a composer, but couldn’t find someone to take on the project.
The years passed; Ziporyn graduated from Yale, gave up on the musical and found work as a medical writer. And although she hadn’t been able to produce her show while in college, she would sometimes ask composer friends if they wanted to write the music to complete her script.
One of these composer friends was her son, Solon Snider ’17. Snider admitted that he initially resisted joining his mother on the project, but then wavered when he encountered a curiously familiar Greek myth in one of his classes.
“When I came across [“Cupid and Psyche”] in class, I thought, ‘Hadn’t my mom done something with this?’”
She had. Snider called his mom to ask about her old script, and “Cupidity: A Brand New Musical Comedy” was reincarnated.
The mother-son duo has been working on this project since last fall — Ziporyn dusted off the original script and, with Snider, updated the story for the 21st century, adding references to Buzzfeed, blinding cell phone camera flashes and effervescent talk show hosts. Snider wrote and composed all of the music, which is influenced by current musical theater but has a certain ’90s flavor. After recruiting a large cast and crew, he finally brought the script — which had been dormant for over 30 years — to a Yale stage.
The story sticks to the plot of the original myth — Venus, the fairest Grecian goddess, is threatened by the beauty of a mere mortal, Psyche. Wanting to eliminate her rival, Venus enlists her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with the first foul creature she encounters. Ready to do his mother’s bidding, Cupid changes his mind after catching sight of Psyche and instead falls in love with her himself. He becomes her husband without allowing her to see him but the suspicious Psyche secretly shines a candle on him. When she injures him in the process, the furious Cupid abandons her. Desperate to regain his love, Psyche pleads with Venus to intercede. The goddess, not wanting to help the girl, gives Psyche a set of impossible tasks to complete in order to see her husband again. By luck and magical help, Psyche completes the tasks and wins Cupid’s love back. She becomes immortal and remains with Cupid for eternity.
“Cupidity” — the modern version of the myth — tells that story exactly, except for a few modifications. Set in 21st-century Beverly Hills, the show uses the magic of Hollywood instead of the magic of the gods to advance the narrative. Rather than the fairest maiden in the land, “Cupidity’s” Psyche is “Buzzfeed’s #1 Natural Beauty.” And the oracle of Apollo does not exist in this world; instead, Dr. Apollo doles out advice and counsel on his hit talk show. These modernizations are funny and contribute to the light-hearted feel of the story, though they are occasionally delivered in a heavy-handed, overly simplified way. The adaptation itself is cohesive and full, parsing the myth in a way that’s easy for the audience to experience. The script also provides a fluid framework for the actors to structure their performances and interpretation of the myth.
Whereas the only substantive characters in the original myth are Venus and Cupid, “Cupidity” showcases a diverse cast of complex characters. The audience is first introduced to Queen Venus, played by Delilah Napier ’19, an over-the-top, has-been diva. Napier fleshes out the character well, and is most convincing in her interpretation of the diva’s mannerisms and body movement. Trailing behind Venus are her assistants Doreena and Cleo, played by Gillian Bolt ’19 and Caroline Francisco ’18, respectively. Bolt and Francisco also play Psyche’s mother and grandmother later in the musical. Both actresses flow seamlessly between their two characters, and provide an authentic performance that stays true to the story. Next saunters in the titular character, Cupid, played by Jacob Miller ’19. Miller gives Cupid a younger feel, and creates his character as grounded and likeable. The other half of the myth, Psyche, is played by Lucy Tomasso ’19. Tomasso also does a great job of personalizing the character, giving Psyche much more texture and dimension than the original myth allowed. But the brightest light amongst the luminescent cast of characters is Dr. Apollo, played by Hershel Holiday ’18. Holiday plays the gregarious, larger-than-life talk show therapist (reminiscent of Dr. Phil), who has a hand in everyone’s story. He fulfills the role perfectly, delivering wit and humor in his vibrant performance.
For anyone who went through a Greek Mythology phase in middle school, the storyline is very predictable. But the vivacity of this musical rests on Ziporyn and Snider’s modernization of the myth, a task that was not easy to undertake but accomplished nonetheless. The original “Cupid and Psyche,” as written in Apuleius’s “Metamorphoses,” is filled with specific narrative machinery, a timeless love story and ancient Greek gods and goddesses, all of which contribute to its classification as a Greek comedy. Ziporyn and Snider’s musical retelling of the story is a charming adaptation complete with original music and a compelling genesis story — it’s the perfect modern day musical comedy.