Orestes, A Tragic Romp at Folger Shakespeare Theatre

According to people who know more about these things than I do, Greek tragedies are generally not funny. They're serious, if not straight up sad. However, Anne Washburn's translation of Euripides' Orestes kept me laughing for much of the 100 minutes that it lasted. This production is a history lesson, a celebration of the Greek history of theatre and a parade of incredibly talented actors. I liked it - can you tell?

The first 10 minutes of the performance is a monologue by Electra, Orestes' sister. You might think that this would terribly boring, considering that the monologue mostly consists of the history of her family. However, the flawless Holly Twyford brings humor and strength to the monologue. I didn't even notice the rest of the set until she threw a rock into one of the pits onstage. Then I was shaken out of the trance she'd woven around the entire theatre and took a look at Daniel Conway's beautiful set design and the man, Jay Sullivan as Orestes, laying on a bench behind her. Moments later, Chris Genebach made his first entrance as Helen of Troy. Yes, you heard me. The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships, here played by a man. Granted, this is exactly what would have happened in Greece, but these days it's still a little bit jarring. I love when men are cast a women, believe me, but I won't lie to you and tell you it doesn't still stop me in my tracks for a second.

Another element of ancient theatre that you don't see very often anymore is the Greek chorus. In this show, it is made up of five lovely women - Lauren Culpepper, Rebecca Hart, Marissa Molnar, Margo Seibert and Rachel Zampelli. They move almost exclusively as a unit and speak in unison. Along with this, they sing a capella during scene changes and monologues. The music is absolutely gorgeous, composed by the delightful James Sugg. The music adds another dimension to this already lush production. Even though it seems like a small element, the levels that the actors use are really fantastic. There's one scene where Electra is standing on the bench, two of the 5 chorus members are on their knees on the bench, and the rest of the chorus are on the stage, either standing or crouching. It's beautiful. Good job, director Aaron Posner.

I realize that this is rambling like mad, but this show left me with so many thoughts and so many feelings. It's a show that I certainly want to see again, because there are so many wonderful things about the production. Everyone definitely should see it.

Orestes, A Tragic Romp
by Euripides, translated and adapted by Anne Washburn
directed by Aaron Posner
Folger Shakespeare Theatre
Running through March 7
Tickets $30-$60


Popular Posts