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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: The Oresteia: Rewritten

by Sarah Deshaies

There’s something cut and dried about Greek theatre: tragedy befalls a group of people people, usually a family, the gods get involved, and loads and loads of people die fraught, over-the-top deaths. Much like reality tv, it’s a loud, messy trainwreck - with gods playing the roles of conniving producers, manipulating the mere mortals.

The Oresteia: Rewritten breathes modern life into the ancient myth of Aeschylus’s The Oresteia, the Greek side of the story in the Trojan War. The Oracle predicts that Orestes will kill his mother one day, a price to pay for his father’s victory in the Trojan War.

McGill student Max Zidel crafts a piece that cuts straight to the heart of the humans caught in a deadly game of sacrifice and oracle predictions. When Electra (Annie MacKay) speaks of the grief that comes from having your mom murder your dad because he sacrificed your big sister to win a war and defend your country’s honour, it’s in terms anybody wrestling with loss can understand.

Zidel writes that he “merged” the three separate plays into one over the summer, but admits that it is not a finished product. Rather than a production, it’s a “theatrical process.” It may be a work in progress, but the quality of the play is high. Here and there are indicators that this is a student production: the chorus looks like they’re wearing bedsheets, remixed into Greek bias-cut dresses. But the Oracle (Lerato Islam) and her chorus crew have amazing, Ke$ha-inspired makeup that is fun and spooky. They sing and sway throughout.

Jamie Munro plays the tempestuous Clytemnestra with grit and energy, driven to desperate measures by grief. David Armstrong’s performance as Orestes is like saving the best part for last: his post-intermission hero is torn apart by what he is predicted to do, and what he wants to do.

You can tell the players are having fun, and the audience is, as well. The neat thing about black box theatre like the Players’ Theatre in the Shatner building (aka Student Services building) is being able to see the faces of the people opposite you, much like turning around during a movie in a theatre. Oresteia: Rewritten provoked looks of shock and total absorption- people were tuned in. 

January 21, 22, 26-29, 8 p.m. Jan. 20 8:30 p.m.
Regular: $8, students/seniors $6

1 comment:

  1. We experienced the same intimacy with the theatre-in-the-round presentation of "Absurd Person Singular". It's so engaging if you're not only absorbed in the action on stage but also the action, or should I say, RE-actions of the audience.


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