TheaterMark Rudio

Having a laugh with Elektra

TheaterMark Rudio
Maybe there's some confusion about the source material.

I attended a preview performance of ACT's Elektra last Friday night, and unless something happens very quickly between now and opening night, this production will likely be remembered as one the most disappointing ACT has staged for quite some time. Although there's much amiss in Carey Perloff's direction, the prime offense is that this is Sophocles and someone forgot to remind Perloff that Sophocles isn't funny. If your actors are delivering lines evoking laughter from the audience, and if Clytemnestra's murder causes tittering throughout the house, something is wrong. Very wrong. The moment at the apex of the play's questioning what constitutes justice and what separates the civilized from the barbarous isn't funny, it's dreadful. This should be non-negotiable and not open to interpretation.

Nor should Pylades deliver a line like he's Dom Deluise in a Mel Brooks movie, eliciting peals of laughter from the entire audience. There's much more to dislike, including the oddly wooden delivery of Nick Steen's Orestes, which constantly grates against the one-note shrieking of Rene Augesen's Elektra. Olympia Dukakis wanders the stage looking lost as the Greek chorus, and while there's much to enjoy about Caroline Lagerfelt's Bette Davis-tinged Clytemnestra, her portrayal belongs in Eurpides' Elektra, not Sophocles'. Steven Anthony Jones' Aegisthus is also out of place, though his presence onstage is lively and brings a bit of vitality to the proceedings, but it's too little, too late.

The costumes are an incomprehensible mess. Allegra Rose Edwards gets the worst of the deal as Chrysothemis, dressed as a baby-doll fetish whore, while Elektra rolls around in a see-through black negligee which seems to have no other purpose than to show off Augesen's physical attributes. Additional music by David Lang adds little to the overall design, which includes a chain-link fence topped by barbed-wire in front of the House of Atreus (yawn). Skip this.