Saturday, September 19, 2015

Iphigenia in Aulis **

This production of Euripides’s final play, the centerpiece of Classic Stage Company’s Greek Festival, is a decidedly mixed bag. The text is a “transadaptation” (her word, not mine) by Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns and 10 out of 12) that throws in a few modern words like “dynamite” and “centrifuge” for no particular reason. Director Rachel Chavkin (Preludes and Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812) has doubled roles so that there are three actors playing the seven parts in addition to a mixed-gender chorus of seven, dressed as if on their way to a Carmen Miranda look-alike contest. They sing rock songs by The Bengsons and dance vigorously to choreography by Sonya Tayeh. I would comment on the lyrics, but I was unable to make out most of them. Rob Campbell initially shouts too much as Agamemnon, but is stirring in the later scenes. As Achilles, he seems to be aiming for a mixture of Harvey Keitel and Donald Trump. Amber Gray (Oklahoma! at Bard, Natasha, Pierre…) is a fierce Clytemnestra, but having her also play Menelaus was a bad idea. Kristen SIeh, in addition to the title character, plays an old man and a messenger. As Iphigenia, her transition from rage against her fate to acceptance seemed too abrupt. The elegantly simple scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado depicts a tent and forest in the background with a bare square platform in front. There is a lovely stage effect at the end. Except for the incongruous costumes for the chorus, Normandy Sherwood’s costumes are tasteful. The thrust of the play survives, but this production’s innovations are not improvements. Running time: one hour, 40 minutes; no intermission.

NOTE: The performance was marred by cellphones ringing not just once or twice, but FOUR times, a record I hope I never see broken. The last two times it was clearly the same phone and the culprit, apparently too embarrassed to be identified, let the phone ring — at least twelve rings each time. Both of these occurrences were at key moments of the play when concentration was essential. I don’t know how the actors kept their cool. It was most disruptive.

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