Occasionally, everyone should have the chance to be a ‘smartass’. Having spent two days of our recent Med. cruise in Greece; naturally we feel permitted to write “ORESTE” in the poet’s own language. So, readers; please forgive this scribe’s taking of liberties with this my sixtieth UTM critique. Translated by Professor Anne Carson, her take couples modern idiom with an approximately 2465 year-old tale of the Gods interfering with mere mortals. For those not familiar with Greek mythology; Orestes, and his sister Elektra are offspring of King Agamemnon & Clytemnestra. Photo – James Smagata, Erindale
When his highness returns from the Trojan War with Mistress Cassandra; unhappy Clytemnestra and boyfriend Aegesthus assassinate Agamemnon. Years later, Orestes and Elektra return; bump off both killers, but are charged with murder.
Director Autumn Smith presents the play in a traverse stage set-up and incorporates the audience aisles as action wings. Elektra has an extended monologue over her brother’s supine body that reiterates the situational history and is a thespian test for any actor. Kyra Weichert handles the ordeal with aplomb and an almost nonchalance for the difficulties involved. Orestes (Nathaniel Kinghan) arousal with what could be described as ‘the shakes’ is almost overdone but helps to emphasize the dichotomy he feels by the popular legal charge and his backing and influence of Apollo. Said god is portrayed by Nathaniel Voll dressed in greatcoat and felt top hat that appears right off of a Currier & Ives Xmas card or playbill for Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. He controls all the action with a riding crop.
The catalysts are eight black-clad Furies who respond to Apollo’s every command and also serve as foils for Elektra’s wish for camaraderie. Their unison responses and synchronized dialogue are precise and effective, almost like ballet sequences. The occasional comedic comments in no way confound the underlying message of what is truly right or wrong. Usually, in such chorus-style groupings, there are some standouts who either give more than full measure or add enhancing traits…this team is uniform and equivalent.
Helen (the 1,000 ships launcher) is Larissa Crawley and somehow she fails to exhibit the charismatic personality that might initiate a ten or twenty-year battle between warrior states. A little more condescension and arrogance might help. Uncle Menelaos is one of Helen’s husbands and as interpreted by Isaac Gilles is a somewhat foppish dude rather than a sword & shield wielding champion. Somehow, this particular image of a hero of the Trojan War seems farfetched.
An interesting support character is one of Helen’s slaves and Stuart Hefford with an anachronistic accent has to deliver the play’s more quotable lines…”Bad Shit Happens”. Certainly a philosophy to live by.
ORESTES and company are at UTM’s Theatre Erindale until Nov. 1st with a special anniversary afternoon that includes a matinee performance on that closing Sunday. Definitely not S.O.P.; but perhaps the final performance curtain could be acknowledged with, instead of applause — a rousing OPA!!!!