Artistic Directors Erik Nelson & Yuval Sharon
A Trilogy Adapted From the Work of AESCHYLUS
Adapted and Directed by ERIK NELSON
Adapted from "The Libation Bearers" and Directed by YUVAL SHARON
Directed by KEVIN NEWBURY
Adapted by DAVID JOHNSTON
January 16 February 1, 2004 at the American Theater for Actors, NYC
Sets KATYA BLUMENBERG
Lighting GREG EMETAZ
Technical Director BEN TEVELOW
Stage Manager MICHELE TRAUB
Press Representative KAREN GRECO ENTERTAINMENT
Saori Tsukada and Chris Oden
In THE MOURNERS
Constance Tarbox Laura Knight Sarah Fraunfelder
Tia Shearer Layna Fisher Jonathan Day
Caroline Worra Jeanne Lehman Cara Consilvio
In THE EUMENIDES
Cortney Keim Beau Allulli Kathy Lichter Michael Bell
Vivian Manning Nell Gwynn Heidi McAllister Lori Lane Jefferson
With three plays with three casts and three directors being presented on the same bill, one might assume that the problem with Theater Factions ORESTEIA is too many cooks spoiling the broth. On the contrary, one ill-executed idea has spoiled the broth and left an ambitious theater company in need of one excellent chef to salvage a main course that is on fire. Sadly, that never even comes close to happening until the very end of the evening, and that is nowhere near enough to make up for the rest of the mess.
Perhaps the most unsettling part of these performances is that we feel them as conceptions. We imagine the artistic meetings where the stylized adaptations were agreed upon, we imagine the nods to deconstruction, self-destruction, reproduction and reconstructive surgery of the classics, we see that from the very beginning, things went very, very wrong.
In AGAMEMNON two onstage actors, a score of filmed actors and the light-laden audience try to make this ultra-modern adaptation have depth. There is modest success, as a teenage-inspired Clytemnestra clad in a "Love Stinks" and later a "Boys Stink" tank top is viscerally violated by Agamemnon, only to gain the right to slay him after winning at a video game version of hopscotch, but there is too much incomprehensible or just plain pretentious business surrounding the tiny triumphs that they become beside the point. This Clytemnestra is no great lady of lore, and Agamemnon comes across as just another political pawn, and even more so as just another prick who hates women.
THE MOURNERS has a different problem, in that it is so busy and ambitious that too much is happening and three onstage actors are virtually wasted in roles as alter-egos to the main Electra (Sarah Fraunfelder). Internet Electra (Layna Fisher) types away at a laptop, but the unfortunate performer could not even use the time to catch up on her correspondence, as her e-mail and web-surfing was constantly projected on a rear wall. Bathtub Electra (Caroline Worra) sits in a tub, and is only utilized for one beautiful moment of operatic song. Finally, Fitness Electra (Cara Consilvio) is the only one making good use of the time, as the actress/athlete works out for the entire hour, non-stop, that the play runs. As for the actors made to act, I will only say that they generally brought back memories of grammar school productions. I will not even get into the unnecessary song covers. Lets move on!
Finally, gladly, we come to THE EUMENIDES. This piece was the most theatrically satisfying, but it came too late to salvage the evening. It does not feel like great Greek theater, but it had potential as the only production that seemed to be remotely cognizant of the historical, mythical and literary importance of the source material. The acting was good, the style appropriate, and the design affecting.
So, not being a fan of this ORESTEIA trilogy, I still appreciate the effort. To that end, I will acknowledge the general enthusiasm of everyone involved. I can only hope that everyone finds some more amenable source material soon.
- Kessa De Santis -