Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rage Done Right

Rape, murder, treachery, incest, cannibalism, blood... Ah, those wacky Greeks. Last night I took Wife Number One and Only to see Electra by the Seattle Shakespeare Company. It's part of their expanded season that includes a classical play by someone other than The Bard. Seattle Shakes continues to impress, racking up another winner here that you really should go see.

There were many highlights which all combined to produce one pretty intense experience. Doors open, walk through a vestibule to get to the theatre, and there in an alcove of plain white sits Electra with her back to us watching black and white home movies of her father playing with them as children. Eerie, soulful, and introductory of the mood we're about to be immersed in, the small room is like a padded cell and Electra wears simple white clothing, not bright and gay but dingy and worn.

The stage is grey and harsh, starkly lit by cheap bare bulbs. It's then that you notice a lack of color and vibrancy anywhere. When Darragh Kennan enters as Orestes you again see that everyone is in grey and white. As the story unfolds, you start to realize that color is being saved until the end. And with a play like this, you know the color will be red.

It isn't long before Marya Sea Kaminski as Electra reaches out and grabs you with mourning that seems so raw, you feel you shouldn't be looking at it. Her performance then turns into the rage of a daughter bereft of her father and forced to live with the killers. She surges into a screaming, spittle flying rage that continues to crash into you like an angry sea pounding at a rocky shore.

Add to that the emotional performance of Susannah Millonzi as Chrysothemis, Electra's sister. She plays the part as a simple woman, trodden down and abused yet still hanging on to a thread of innocent cheer like a beaten puppy. She provides the single most emotional moment of the evening when told that the beloved brother she's been waiting for to return has actually died. She begins screaming out "No! No! No! No! NO!" while stamping her feet and trying not to believe it. It's the kind of moment that reaches inside you and pulls tears out of places you don't like to visit.

Then we reach the part of the play where a lot of red is seen. Electra's murdering mother dies backstage at the hands (and axe) of Orestes. Orestes and his accomplice return center stage smeared with so much blood it's dripping off them. A little later the body is revealed and the blood was poured all over the very nice actress who played a very mean mother. But of course we know: Too much is never enough. The murdering new husband shows up and is taken backstage to be axed. Blood begins flowing down the previously white curtain behind the doorway and Electra's revenge is complete.

This show, my friends, is rage done right.

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