Double Your Pleasure: Theater Review, Iphigenia 2.0 (Part II)

Here’s what Sidekick thought…

Anytime a contemporary writer chooses to screw with a time-honored text, it begs the question, does this retelling say something innovative or is it just fucking with a classic.

As a disclaimer when I was a wee sidekick, my favoritist book in the world was a giant volume of classic mythology that I stole from the library and kept under my bed, and each night I would haul it out and read all about the gods and goddesses up there on Mount Olympus messing around with the mortals—I liked the original. I brought this baggage with me to the Peter Norton Space for The Signature Theater Company’s Iphigenia 2.0.

In the original Iphigenia, Agamemnon or one of his peeps did something to piss off one of the gods so the big guys and gals upstairs want Ag to slice and dice his daughter Iphigenia before the army can sail to Troy so battles between Brad Pitt and Eric Bana can ensue. In order to get the murder ball rolling, Ag lures little Iphi to Aulis saying that she’s to wed Achilles.

In Mee’s Iphigenia there are no Gods, and it’s the soldiers who want Agamemnon (played by Tom Nelis) to hack up Iphigenia (Louisa Krause) as a way to show he’s willing to make personal sacrifices, before they’ll trek thousands of miles away to kill and be killed in a war that’s largely unimportant to them. Hmm that sound familiar. . .

To make sure everyone gets that he is comparing the suit-and-tie-wearing-I-never-served-a-day-in-the-military Agamemnon to George W. Bush, Mee outfits the soldiers in U.S.-flag-bearing army fatigues. And to make sure that everyone gets that even though this is some nebulous time it’s really now, he gives Iphi and her girls dialogue about bachelorette parties in present day L.A. and a hunger for a certain kind of tabloid fame.

It’s Mee’s thing (I read post show) to incorporate a variety of found texts—in this case leadership diatribes and military musings by Richard Heckler, Wilfred Owen, Richard Holmes, and Anthony Swafford—but I found myself constantly distracted trying to follow Mee’s allegorical map and put the pieces together. If Iphigenia is about present day US, why are we in Greece? If it’s ancient Greece, why do the soldiers get all rape-y around the girls and start quoting a book of decorum from George Washington? If we’re not using Euripides’ text, why does the language have to be stilted and backassswards? It doesn’t help that each time larger thematic point is touched upon—differences between the sexes, nobility in combat, the vapid concerns of young women–the channel is quickly changed and there’s some tangential dance number—yes dance number. The troops scale walls and belt out spiritual diddies in the trenches. Iphigenia’s gal pals sing and slink around in corsets. Both the men and the woman inexplicably and gratuitously run around in their underwear. The cast does a decent job with the physically demanding roles, and the choreographed numbers look good, but almost all the characterization happens off stage. Why does Agamemnon decide not to murder his daughter? What makes Iphigenia embrace martyrdom? Why does Achilles not decide to save the life of his bride-to-be? Mee offers no answers and we must assume that all that character development stuff took place during the production numbers.

The exception is Iphigenia’s overbearing mother Clytemnestra, played by Kate Mulgrew, whose love for her husband visibly turns when she finds out his plan. Not only do Mulgrew’s emotions register but she also nails the humor “instructing” Achilles how to do the wedding rumba ala Mrs. Robinson and advising her daughter’s bridesmaids to never compare a bride’s wedding to their own imaginary one. But with her booming voice and big gestures, she seems permanently stuck in a different play than the others—perhaps a straight revival of the original Iphigenia without the dance numbers to LL Cool J?

In the show’s close, the soldiers and bridesmaids throw a tarp over the grief-stricken Clytemnestra and thrash, smash plates, hurl confetti, and throw cake around her—much like Mee throws glitter and jazz hands and tangential texts all around Euripedes’ play.

Now read what Counter Critic had to say…


1 Comment

  1. […] Now read what Sidekick had to say… […]

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