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Thursday, Apr 9 2009
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With a calculated blend of ancient lyricism and contemporary humor, Ghost Road Theater Company rolls out its free-wheeling and substantively edited adaptation of Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia, told over two separate bills. (Depending on the schedule, they can be seen in one day with a dinner break, or on two separate evenings.) If you're unfamiliar with the epic, you really should know that it hinges on a series of murders, though the first is technically a sacrifice. Seeking to "rescue" his brother's wife, Helen of Troy, from the "abduction" that triggered the Trojan War, General Agamemnon (Ronnie Clark) sacrifices his own daughter, Iphigineia, to the god Artemis in order to obtain favorable sea winds for his Troy-bound ships. And in Part 1 (Clytemnestra), though Agamemnon feels truly rotten about the deed (he slit his own daughter's throat), his wife, Clytemnestra (Trace Turville in Part 1, Christel Joy Johnson in Part 2), feels even more rotten, obsessively mercilessly rotten: Upon her hubby's heroic homecoming, she butchers him in their bed. Excised from Ghost Road's interpretation are a couple of characters who complicate our emotional attachments. In her husband's absence, Clytemnestra took a lover, Aegisthus, who aided in the murder and who doesn't appear here. Furthermore, Agamemnon pulled into the driveway with Roman slave-mistress Cassandra in his chariot. Such a publicly displayed sex toy would certainly put a kink in director Katharine Noon's "Hi, honey, I'm home" '50s suburban aesthetic. So Cassandra is also in absentia. What remains is a nuclear family and a house, like the House of Atreus, which could really be in Covina, crumbling, slowly. Noon and company aim to conjure the psychological and cosmic forces that lead to the end of an era, which is pretty much what we're feeling right now in our sliver of history, so it's not hard to find connective tissue. In Part 2 (Elektra), the eponymous daddy's girl (a role shared by Mandy Freud and Christel Joy Johnson) is the now seething daughter of Clytemnestra and the murdered Agamemnon. She sets up camp in an alley, broadcasting her rage against her mother's deed over a makeshift radio, like some ignored and increasingly deranged revolutionary, while awaiting the return of her brother Orestes (Ronald Wingate in Part 1, Clark in Part 2). Her bro does eventually arrive, though still a little soft in the masculinity department. With Elektra's goading, he blusters his way to murder his mother, Clytemnestra, in order to avenge his father's death — that would be killing number three, setting in place cycles of violence that will spin for centuries. And if Orestes doesn't feel ambivalent enough over what he has just done, the Three Furies (the entrancing Sarah Broyles, with JoAnna Senatore, and Madelynn Fattibene) torment him to the margins of already-precarious sanity in Part 3 (Orestes), when they're not lounging around in cocktail dresses sipping martinis and playing bridge. Noon's production grows increasingly absorbing as it progresses. Among its strengths is the visual unity of Maureen Weiss' set — a house that folds up into a suitcase. (Tattered suitcases and their symbol of exile anchor Noon's lucid point of view.) By Part 3, as their world is crumbling, the characters play their scenes in allegorically constricted compartments. The performances are never less than competent and often inspired. Though Turville's Clytemnestra offers little of the magnetic force and comedy Jacqueline Wright brought to an earlier version of this project, Clyt at Home, Turville comes into her own with wry authority as bitch-goddess Athena, bossing around Apollo (Wingate) in Part 3. The dialogue careens from petulant platitudes ("You murdered someone who was really important to me" and "The world is fucking complicated. It's not black and white") to snippets of exalted poeticism. Brian Weir plays Helen of Troy's daughter Hermione in drag, yet without a trace of campiness. She's the outcast, and our narrator. "I don't belong to this house," she says tenderly, "but it belongs to me." As it does to all of us. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood; in rep, call for schedule. (323) 461-3673. A Ghost Road Company production.
Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: March 26. Continues through May 3, 2009
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