Chicago Theatre Review
‘Electra’ completes Court Theatre’s awkward Greek Cycle
Electra – Court Theatre
‘Electra,’ the final play in Court Theatre’s ambitious (if uneven) Greek Cycle, features all of the hallmarks of previous Court productions: the scenic design (from Scott Davis) is virtuosic, as is Paul Toben’s lighting design; the costuming (from Jacqueline Firkins) is striking; and the sound design (from Andre Pluess) is both subtle and surprising.
However, like last year’s production of ‘Agamemnon,’ ‘Electra’ is ultimately an awkward production, one that cannot reconcile the dated aspects of Greek tragedy with the modern touches of Court’s staging.
The play’s plot completes the story arc of House Atreus. While 2014’s staging of ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’ began the story (following Agamemnon’s agonizing decision to sacrifice his own daughter for favorable winds to fight in Troy), and 2015’s ‘Agamemnon’ saw the title character’s murder at the hands of his demented white Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, ‘Electra’ follows the revenge of Electra and Orestes, the now-grown children of Agamemnon.
‘Iphigenia’ was a terrific production. Along with humanizing the normally hysterical characters of Greek tragedy, is also injected wonderful doses of wit and modernity into the action, particularly with a diverse chorus that sang musical interludes throughout the show. ‘Agamemnon,’ meanwhile, was an insufferable bore, one that lingered with that same chorus – now composed of overacting men – who spent much of the show’s 90 minutes wallowing in grief.
‘Electra’ falls in between those two extremes. Although the show’s cast is filled with terrific actors – the dynamic Kate Fry, charismatic Sandra Marquez, and captivating Michael Pogue are especially good – Seret Scott’s direction really overplays the melodrama, as Nicholas Rudall’s translation sets actor after actor into long-winded diatribes and speeches about their emotional state. I get it – we’re dealing with Greek tragedy here – but Scott’s direction, which seems to emphasize shocked expressions and gestured of dismay at all turns, turns the drama to 11, and it all becomes a bit too much to bear after awhile.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through Dec. 11 by Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637
Tickets are available by calling 773-753-4472 or by visiting http://www.courttheatre.org/.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.