December 1, 2006—February 4, 2007
Directed by Frédérique Michel
Production Design by Charles A. Duncombe
Cast: Ed Baccari Crystal Clark Troy Dunn Alexandra Fulton Sam Littlefield Nita Mickley Maximiliano Molina Alisha Nichols Bo Roberts Kenneth Rudnick Marie-Françoise Theodore
Los Angeles Times — RECOMMENDED!
Clarity in revision of classic.
December 8, 2006
By F. Kathleen Foley
Charles L. Mee’s “Iphigenia,” the third and final offering in City Garage’s “Three by Mee” season, offers yet another reconsidered Greek classic by Mee that seems as timely as today’s headlines.
In the most straightforward staging of the three plays, Frédérique Michel brings a no-frills clarity to Mee’s occasionally overstated text, while Charles Duncombe’s striking production design richly evokes the Theban seaside where the action transpires.
“Agamemnon,” the first play in the trilogy, treated Agamemnon’s murder by his vengeful queen, Clytemnestra. The second play, “The Bacchae,” showed a prideful king at odds with the god Dionysos and his female revelers.
“Iphigenia” picks up Agamemnon’s fortunes just before the Trojan War, when Agamemnon, at the insistence of his troops, makes the fatal decision to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, as proof of his commitment to the conflict.
Troy Dunn once again plays Agamemnon, but this time, he is a gentler king before he has been brutalized by bloodshed and his own folly. Reprising the role of Clytemnestra, Marie-Françoise Theodore charts her character’s progression from loving wife to unyielding adversary. Crystal Clark’s Iphigenia shows the titanium backbone under the maidenly exterior.
“Iphigenia” is foremost an antiwar play, but it is more fascinatingly an incisive look at the tragic disconnect between the sexes. Surrounded by her vapid bridesmaids – a refreshingly cheeky element in Michel’s somber staging – Iphigenia fears suffocating in a domestic vacuum more than her own death. Hungry for the meaningful life that society denies her, she embraces her fate with the zeal of a suicide bomber. It’s a brilliantly revisionist denouement, and a fitting conclusion to City Garage’s ambitious, rewarding season.
LA WEEKLY — GO!
THREE BY MEE: IPHIGENIA
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
By Steven Leigh Morris
Completing a trilogy of Greek-classic adaptations by Charles L. Mee, director Fréderéque Michel demonstrates how she’s settled into view of theater that contains both the authority of stylistic precision mingled with a tenderness that carries the ache of her characters’ stresses and regrets.
This is the story of General Agamemnon’s (Troy Dunn) daughter, Iphigenia (Crystal Clark), whom her father sacrificed to the god Poseidon in exchange for fair seas to carry his fleet safely to Troy. Mee underscores the rumblings of Agamemnon’s army, transforming Poseidon’s demand into theirs – that the tortured officer make a flesh sacrifice to prove his credentials for authorizing the inevitable sacrifices of his troops. (This begs the questions of whether Congress would have so hastily authorized the Iraq war had we a draft that might have put legislators’ own sons and daughters in harm’s way.) For reasons that could be in performance, textual or a combination of both, a section bogs down where the soldiers explain their points of view.
Other than that, Michel and designer Charles A. Duncombe’s production consists of a choreographed and elegantly costumed recitative – on and around a beached boat – that unfolds in a haunting crescendo of argument and emotion centering on the clash between Agamemnon’s duty to his country and to his family. Lovely, lucid performances by Dunn, Clark and by Marie-Françoise Theodore as Agamemnon’s agonized wife, Clytemnestra. Sam Littlefield is also grand as Iphigenia’s androgynous groom, Achilles.
KCRW: Greek is Chic
December 21, 2006
[Listen to the review] This is James Taylor with Theatre Talk. This past weekend, the Getty Villa presented Agamemnon by Aeschylus as part of their new series of informal, staged readings. If this Agamemnon (starring Tyne Daly as Clytemnestra) is any indication, these Villa Theater Lab events should make a valuable addition to L.A.’s classical drama landscape.
As a staged reading, the actors all dressed in black and simply sat around a table with scripts. Their Agamemnon (directed by Stephen Wadsworth) was well-rehearsed and featured elaborate lighting cues and sound effects–not to mention a riveting performance of Cassandra’s monologue, which actress Francesca Faridany got up on top of the table to recite.
The Getty Agamemnon was only one of a number of classic Greek myths on stage in L.A. this weekend. Just down PCH from the Villa, City Garage, the small Santa Monica theater tucked behind the 3rd Street Promenade, was showing Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0, a rethinking of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis.
Iphigenia is the third and final production of City Garage’s “Three by Mee” season, which started back in June with a production of Mee’s Agamemnon 2.0. Iphigenia, like City Garage’s other Mee productions, is directed by Frederique Michel and it features set pieces (a weathered, old fishing boat and a pan flute) as well as actors (namely Troy Dunn as Agamemnon) seen earlier in the trilogy.
Iphigenia is the most accessible of the “Three by Mee” series, both a production and as a play. Mee’s text is still assembled in a Dadaist, collage fashion, bringing together snippets of existing classic and contemporary writing; but in this piece, his curatorial hand feels more focused. In one scene, Mee has written an exchange between Clytemnestra and Agamemnon that has the feel of an old-fashioned drama–which throws the actors for a loop since for three plays straight they’ve been performing in completely post-modern style. Seeing them suddenly grapple with direct conflict and natural release of emotion is odd–it’s like watching soap opera actors whose teleprompters suddenly start scrolling Shakespeare.
The result is a play that’s less rambunctious than Mee’s other adaptations, but no less engaging for being relatively straightforward.
Michel, likewise, has streamlined Mee’s stage directions as well as her own directorial flare. The blocking is less busy and there are fewer moments that call attention to their own audacity. The final tableaux is far more restrained than the food-fight orgy that Mee calls for in his text, but the flash of chaos shown by the director is more haunting because of its brevity.
Equally haunting, but more whimsical (not to mention, less political) in tone is another Greek update playing across town at Inside the Ford. Sarah Ruhl’s update of the Eurydice myth has been slowly touring the country these last few years in a spectacular staging by Les Waters. It hasn’t played in Los Angeles, so the Circle X Theatre Company decided to mount a production of their own.
It’s not hard so see why; Ruhl’s Eurydice is filled with evocative imagery (like rain-filled elevators and a tricycle-riding Lord of the Underworld) plus simple, honest, but poetic language. Director John Langs’ version is almost identical to the Waters’ production (which heads off-Broadway next year) minus a few canted angles and gallons of H20.
What Langs does achieve is a slightly more grounded reading of play. The lyric moments don’t soar as high, but as a dramatic experience, the play works better. After two viewings, Ruhl’s Eurydice is not quite the masterpiece some have hailed it to be, but it does seem to have just enough dazzle to inspire actors and directors to do excellent work.
Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice runs through January 6 at the John Anson Ford Theatre, Charles Mee’s version of Iphigenia resumes its run at City Garage January 12 through February 4.
This is James Taylor with Theatre Talk for KCRW.
Los Angeles City Beat
Brilliant Twists: Two Westside productions cleverly rework classic tales
December 7, 2006
By Don Shirley
…Mee’s Iphigenia is no more realistic than Ibsen’s Dollhouse, but it’s on a much more intimate scale and takes about half the time (indeed, one more scene might be useful). It begins with ruminations by Agamemnon (Troy Dunn, who played the same king in City Garage’s Agamemnon earlier this year) that sound precisely tailored to the dilemma that W now faces in Iraq – except, of course, that W presumably never thinks about offering his daughters to the war effort, which is the sacrifice demanded of Agamemnon.
Yet the play eventually moves far beyond its discursive beginning and contemporary dress and references and evokes the original Greek emotions. The chorus of GIs and scatterbrained bridesmaids get some choice moments, as do Iphigenia (Crystal Clark) and her anguished mother (Marie-Françoise Theodore). Frédérique Michel’s direction is exquisitely nuanced.
Iphigenia ultimately accepts her wartime fate – at least she’ll be remembered as someone other than plain old Mrs. Achilles. Will the Bush twins now accept her challenge and sign up for service in Baghdad?