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Review: ‘Athena’ is strikingly excellent

"Athena" continues through Sept. 24.
"Athena" continues through Sept. 24.

Fencing foils clash together as the opponents attack with strategic moves. The two girls competing want the same thing – to be the best.

Lamar University’s Department of Theatre and Dance kicks off their 2023-24 season with “Athena,” written by Gracie Gardener, through Sept. 24.

Goody-two-shoes Mary Wallace (Brianna Cobos) and the mysterious and aloof Athena (Juliana McManus) couldn’t be more different from each other. Yet, they practice every day for the chance to be recruited for the Junior Olympics in fencing. As they train hard, they form an unlikely bond.

“Athena” tells a story of friendship and connection through fencing. It dives into the personalities of the two characters and how they bounce off each other, with Athena pushing Mary Wallace out of her comfort zone, and Mary Wallace being a constant support system for Athena.

Cobos’ Mary Wallace is entertaining. Her rule-following nature, enhanced by her strict parents, serves as a foil to Athena’s neglectful familial ties. She tries to make everyone around her proud, but also has moments where she isn’t afraid to stand her ground.

McManus’ Athena is spontaneous and exciting. She is everything that Mary Wallace. isn’t, but still constantly encourages her friend’s growth in fencing. As the two bond, Athena grows from an aloof, yet skilled fencer, into someone who can spare a moment of kindness for the people she cares about.

The set, designed by Lee Barker, is simplistic but effective, and the lighting, designed by Lana Jeffcoat, is pleasing to the eye.

When Athena and Mary Wallace visit a club, the lights flash around the stage, creating an exciting transition.

Director Alan Brincks ties everything together, as well as staging fencing choreography that is stylistic but believable.

“Athena” is a humorous and heartfelt story about finding friendship in the most unlikely places.

Show times for “Athena” are 7:30 p.m., Sept. 22 and 23, and Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for staff and $15 for the general public, and are available at

Category: Opinion