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Also very close, but not quite there, is writer-director Katharine Noon’s gorgeous and almost flippant spin on Agamemnon. She calls it Orestes Remembered: The Fury Project, and a devoted ensemble has developed it for the better part of a year. The extent of that devotion shows up on the stage and makes this production a must-see. Noon staged related works in 2001: Clyt at Home, based on the woes of Clytemnestra and her kids waiting for her hubbie, General Agamemnon, to return from the Trojan Wars; and Elektra-La-La in 1995, a study of Clytemnestra’s infamous daughter.
In the legend, Clytemnestra is livid because Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia, in exchange for favorable sea winds. She and her lover off the general upon his return, provoking their skittish son Orestes (Ronnie Clark) to stab his own mother. Now, in this production, Orestes is haunted by three furies (Kelsey Barney, Julie Lockhart and Cathy Carlton) — here attired in high heels and carrying handbags, like aunties from a Jerry Herman musical.
I’m not convinced the creators understand the power of this ghost story — of the penetrating way it questions the virtue of “justice” that’s cloaked in vengeance. Watching Clark’s Orestes slide down the razor blade of his torment has a horrific appeal, yet Noon and company give equal weight to putting Orestes on trial in a democratic election, which ends in a tie, and is therefore resolved by the goddess Athena (Brian Weir). They’ve got Macbethin their hands, yet they feel compelled to supplement it with what could be taken as an ironic comment on the scandalous 2000 U.S. election. Such an election is in the ancient legend, and there’s no reason to lose it. Like a sloppy shirt, it simply needs to be tucked in, so that the two stories are part of the same classical suit.
Maureen Weiss’ lovely set packages the saga in miniature via a kind of foldout suitcase that embodies the diminished, ramshackle House of Atreus. The characters presume they’re larger than life, that they can take justice into their own hands, while crouching to get through the damn door. Even the gods who drop in for a card game have to suffer through it. It’s very funny.
In 300, the aggrieved, brave Spartans unintentionally look quite stupid. Gilgameshand Orestes Remembered are stories largely about the folly of such heroic posturing. Taken from ancient appeals for wisdom and compromise among testy neighbors, they certainly pertain to a contemporary world that’s growing smaller and hotter.
GILGAMESH| Adapted by STEPHEN SACHS from a new translation by STEPHEN MITCHELL | At THEATER @ BOSTON COURT, 70 Mentor Ave., Pasadena | Through April 8 | (626) 683-6883
ORESTES REMEMBERED: The Fury Project | Written and directed by KATHARINE NOON | Presented by Ghost Road Company at the POWERHOUSE THEATRE, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica | Through March 31 | (866) 633-6246