Electra: a two thousand five hundred year old gem

Audrey Park in ELECTRA. Photo by Paula Keller.

In Ten Thousand Things’ delicious Electra (various venues, opening at Open Book Oct 13; see TTT’s website for specifics; scheduled through Nov 5), Electra’s brother Orestes brings in the recently severed head of Aegisthus – his and Electra’s father’s murderer – and impales it on a pike. The rest of the cast goes wild with grisly joy, delirious bloodlust, freaky passion. It’s a stirring moment; it will make you laugh with horror and want to dive under your seat.

And it’s the essence of this creepy/wonderful production. E’s need for revenge is an intense pain, a nightmare that never dissipates, a constantly bubbling sexual fever. A burden: Electra carries it (it’s right there, perfectly visible), wobbles underneath it, staggers. It bears down on her thin shoulders. “Can’t you see how haggard my body is?” Finally, she sets her burden down – whew – but it stays onstage, always visible.

Electra is played by Audrey Park. Thin but in now way fragile, lean and sinewy, hard and soft at the same time. Soft-spoken. Some might argue that Park is soft-spoken to a fault, but not me. Park mesmerized me with her quiet passion, her deeply felt need to see Aegisthus’ gory head.

And I wasn’t alone in this regard. The rest of the cast responds to Electra’s eerie example, especially the marvelous Chorus (Thomasina Petrus, Karen Weise-Thompson, Michelle Barber), singing, cracking jokes, orating, spouting weird poetry. The swirling staging style of TTT serves this play well. Indeed, Electra may well be the funniest Greek tragedy you ever see; kudos in this regard to director Rebecca Novick.

Electra’s brother Orestes (Kurt Kwan) hides his identity but reveals himself at the slightest provocation. He has been thinking about, indeed, obsessing on, his sister, we sense this, for years. His sidekick, Pylades (the excellent Ricardo Vazquez) serves him (and the play) very well. Nice work also by Mikell Sapp as E’s loving husband.

Electra wasn’t developed in a workshop at the Playwrights Center: the play is 2,500 years old. But as a revenge tragedy, a tasty celebration of blood and lust and bloodlust, Electra remains fresh and relevant.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. His Anna May Wong bioplay, How The Ghost Of You Clings, will be presented in January by the Playwrights Center as part of the 2018 Ruth Easton Festival. Please visit John’s informational website.



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