Friday, November 5, 2010

Classic Re-imagined - An Off-Broadway Production of "Oresteia", September 2010

San Francisco Opera's performance of Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac, a stylistically wrong-headed opera resulted from setting to a libretto unsuccessfully condensed from a famous legit play, reminded me of an Off-Broadway Production of "Oresteia" I saw in the Kirk Theatre in September.

The three parts Greek classic by Aeschylus included Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides (Εὐμενίδες, Eumenides; also known as The Furies).  They are seminal works not only in the history of theater but history of western civilization as well.

I saw a 95% successful production at Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2000/01 season for the grand opening of its proscenium Roda Theatre.  Berkeley Rep presented the trilogy in two nights and the production was highly engrossing and struck the absolutely correct chords until the last twenty minutes or so, when the trial of matricide Orestes was to begin, a most improper comic Athena spoiled the sublimity it never came.

With that tiny regret in mind, I was intrigued and eager to see how this Oresteia in one night would work.  This particular production was produced by Leonidas Loizidis who is an award winning director and producer. His past successes include world tours of “Bakches” two year ago and “Trojan Women” last year.  The Theatre Scheme of Leonidas Loizides was established as an non-profit organization. Its aim is to spread across the world Greek culture, traveling with remarkable theatrical productions of ancient Greek drama, winning awards and excellent reviews.

The play started promisingly, with a male dancer agonized on stage, a female singer joined in with haunting chats, therefore setting the tone for an intense journey.  Once actors started to populate the stage and recited the highlights of the poetry by Aeschylus, and the dancer become utterly superfluous, the presentation fell apart.  The producer's attempt to contain some fine speeches in spurts proved to be a stumbling block in forming any development of any character or situation.  It was almost like PowerPoint presentation of a real Oresteia.  One got some ideas of the trilogy but not the true thing; since it was a condensed version, the true thing was not expected but the energy and impact were seriously compromised and that was not acceptable.

I think that if the adaptation took a more radical route, such as a singing or dancing presentation of the emotional highlight, utilizing language of another sorts other than the incomplete Aeschylus, it might have worked wonderfully.

Interesting and noble attempt but not very successful was my perhaps rather severe judgment of this production.  I did enjoy it, since it was Greek drama, after all.

Orestias, Kirk Theater, New York City, September 2010 _8122

Orestias, Kirk Theater, New York City, September 2010 _8121

Orestias, Kirk Theater, New York City, September 2010

>> New York City Report, September 2010, Part XXII: Veniero's Pasticceria & Caffe in New York City 
<< New York City Report, September 2010, Part XX: Arslan: In the Midst of a Single Breath - Dillon Gallery, New York 

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