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ic_electra_120Electra, I said. Greek tragedy, I said. Do I really want to go to this?

I did, and you do too. Ithaca College Theatre's production of Euripides' Electra is powerful, compelling, and clear. Under Susannah Berryman's direction, the student actors and designers have created a Greek tragedy that speaks to us all.

The Atreus family puts the crazy in dysfunctional. Agamemnon, the dad, killed one of his daughters in return for favorable winds to carry him to Troy. Clytemnestra, the mom, killed her husband when he returned from Troy. She and her new husband banished the remaining children, Electra and Orestes. Now the kids want revenge.

Without being overt about it, this production makes us think of all the current wars and genocides that arise from equally complicated patterns of vengeance.

The story takes place on a series of slanted platforms, decorated with shovels dug into the dirt, ready to bury the bodies. Lawrence Moten's great design tips and tilts the characters as they slide into their doom. The audience encircles the action, so that the performers have to turn and turn to be sure everyone understands them. It's the right choice for this script, where the protagonists spin themselves into madness and matricide.

Morgan Lavenstein's fierce Electra, in ragged jeans, made me think of revolutionary leaders and suicide bombers. Orestes, played by Richard Lindenfeltzer, shows us how Electra's vengeance plot is both exhilarating and horrifying.

The Chorus is the third main character-six young women friends of Electra, who watch and comment on the action. Their choral speaking is astonishingly clear and interesting, as are their responses to the events they witness. In Vestal Virgin fashion, they wear pale printed 40s dresses, with hair twisted in that charming 40s manner.

ic_electra_400Ithaca College Theatre begins performances September 28th with the Greek tragedy, “Electra” written by Euripides. Students Richard Lindenfelzer ’13, Miles Crosman ’12, Morgan Lavenstein ’11, and T.J. Wagner ‘14 bring this timeless tale to life.

In fact, Kathryn Vega's costumes don't adhere to any one period; rather, they explain and depict each character-an intriguing approach. Electra's farmer husband (the compelling Doug Hansen) and Orestes' friend Pylades (the fascinatingly silent T.J. Wagner) wear peasant clothes, while Clytemnestra (the chilly Emma Poole) sports furs and sunglasses. The Old Man also wears ragged linens, as befits a saintly hermit. (In this role, Miles Crosman wisely doesn't use an "old man" voice, so his joy and sorrow comes through strongly.)

Only the Messenger (Matthew Prigge, making the story clear) wears ancient Greek costume-because only Greek tragedies use messengers to tell us the gory bits. Us moderns like a bit of gore, however, so director Berryman and lighting designer K. Boshart create a wonderfully frightening matricide.

Best of all, when the gods appear to sort things out, in that old deus ex machina way, they wear gray suits and white shoes, carry black briefcases, and talk to their god-bosses on earpieces!

If you've thought of Greek tragedy as boring "kultcha," this Electra will change your mind.

P.S. For some reason, Cornell Theatre is only running its shows for a week. Otherwise, I'd send you all to see Big Love, Charles Mee's amazing take on Aeschylus' The Suppliants, for another spectacular approach to Greek tragedy.

Electra Performance times: 8 p.m. on Sept. 28 and continue on Sept. 30, Oct. 1 - 3, and Oct. 6 - 9 with 2 p.m. matinees Oct. 3 and 9. All performances will be held in the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center.


Photos by Sheryl Sinkow


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