A Spry and Visually Compelling Take on Aeschylus’ The Persians at Getty Villa (GO!)

Ellen Lauren, center, in The Persians
Ellen Lauren, center, in The Persians
Photo by Craig Schwartz

When it comes to Greek tragedy, director Anne Bogart does not exactly embrace stage fireworks. Hers is a classical theater of coldly deliberate and quasi-liturgical declamation whose embodied, minimalist vocabulary is drawn from modern dance and the traditional Japanese stage.

It’s the kind of mise en scène that can make Aeschylus’ dour The Persians at times feel like so much ritualized preaching from the choir, even with Aaron Poochigian’s spry new translation.

Like 2011’s The Trojan Women, SITI Company’s last Getty Villa commission, The Persians dramatizes a Greek military victory from the perspective of a vanquished foe, in this case that of the Persian court after the Battle of Salamis.

But whether or not one fully appreciates SITI’s performance style (in which Stephen Duff Webber’s ghost of King Darius packs all the spookiness of a parish priest), Bogart delivers more than her accustomed quotient of inventive stage coups. The processional entrance of Queen Atossa (Ellen Lauren) is an emblematically thrilling mix of directorial sleight-of-hand and clever costuming (by Nephelie Andonyadis), and the battle aria delivered by Will Bond (as the Messenger) is an affectively compelling lament on the horrors of battle.

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It’s a message that gets wryly accented by Andonyadis’ Hugo Boss–like business suits for the male ensemble, suggesting that war — regardless of official pretext — is always a continuation of commerce by other means.

SITI Company at Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Pacific Palisades; through Sept. 27. (310) 440-7300, getty.edu/visit/villa.


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