Thursday, December 02, 2010

Theatrical Review: Electra

Theatrical Review: Electra
Written by: Sophocles (c. 496 BCE - 405 BCE)
Adaptation by: Frank McGuinness
Directed by: Susan P. O’ Hearn
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre and Stage II presented their production of “Electra” written by Sophocles who is one of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived to this day. The others are Aeschylus and Euripides who also wrote a version of the “Electra” story which was presented on the ESU Stage in 1986. Of the three, Sophocles is noted for his many influences on the art of theatrical presentation. These include introducing a third actor to the dialogue which helped move the plot along reducing the importance of the chorus to do so.

The setting for this production of Sophocles’ “Electra” is placed in a mental institution which enhances the play’s thematic element of pain by adding a psychological dimension to it. The characters are seen early in the play as the institution’s inmates encouraging the audience to examine the nature of each character through a prism of insanity. This is made much easier as the considerable talents of each actor subtly reminds the audience their character is touched with insanity and everything they say and do are subject to their condition.

This is most notable through the delivery of the lines given by many of the actors. At first, their delivery seems forced with too much emotional emphasis on certain phrases and words. However, once the environment they’re in is realized, such an approach become an appropriate one. A less notable reminder is when some characters delivered their lines in a more “normal” tone but even here one can see something peculiar in their eyes and mannerisms which betray their airs of normality. All this involves the audience even deeper into the play as it heightens their perception of all they are witnessing because the performances are physiologically confusing. In other words, it gets into your head.

There is, however, one notable exception. The character Chrythothemis (as portrayed by Erin Lanza) can be considered the only sane one in the bunch. She serves as a counterpoint to the other characters which allows us to see the deeper motivations which lead to their behaviors and perceptions. Her voice of reason is often met with accusations by her sister Electra (as portrayed by Shannon Leah Christmann) of being insane which heralds back to a well know proposition, “If there is only one sane person in an insane world, would that person be deemed sane?”

The character Chrythothemis is not the only voice of reason Electra hears. The chorus, which consisted of Alexandria Bellivan, Michelle Jones (who also served the production as one of its scenic artists and carpenters), Kimberly Konczos, and Jenny Liriano, often reminds Electra many of the wounds she suffers from are self inflicted and it would be wiser to stop injuring herself by letting go of the thoughts and behaviors of others. But, she ignores such heeding since she embraces her pain like a security blanket and only acknowledges the choral beseechments when she wants to confront them in order to justify the resentments she relives with every compounding thought. Although we see the chorus upon the stage with Electra, we wonder if they’re physically there or are they the voices of wellness within her head.

The play has its roots in an act that occurred soon after the Trojan war ended. The King of the city state of Argos named “Agamemnon” was a Greek Ally during the war and was instrumental in securing their victory. Upon his triumphant return home, he was killed by his wife Clytemnestra (as portrayed by Samantha Crawn) and her lover, Agamemnon’s cousin Aegisthus (as portrayed by Christian Monturuno), while taking a bath. This act was committed partly because they wanted to usurp his throne but the main reason was because Agamemnon sacrificed his and Clytemnestra’s infant daughter, Iphigenia, to assure military success in Troy and Clytemnestra wanted to revenge her death. Fearing for her twin brother’s, Orestes (as portrayed by Joey Dougherty), life, Electra rescues him by sending him to Strophius of Phocis with a servant (as portrayed by Luke Thomas Swierczek who also served as one of the production’s Carpenters).

The play itself takes place years later when an adult Orestes returns to Argos with his friend Pylades (as portrayed by Paul Ceni) and the servant with a plot revenge his father’s death and to claim the throne. Part of this plot is to weave a yarn in which Orestes has died in a chariot accident and delivery of an urn with his remains will take place soon. The object of this deception is to allow entry of Orestes and Pylades into the home so they may exact their murderous revenge.

The story of Orestes' revenge was a popular subject in the Ancient Greek tragedies and it loses little of its impact in the modern era. This is especially true when productions like the one occurring on the ESU stage breathes new life into the work though imaginative settings and talented actors who approach the play and all its implications fearlessly. This production of Sophocles’ “Electra” can be held as an example of the well earned reputation of quality theater The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre and the student theatrical club Stage II has gained throughout the years.

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre and Stage II production of “Electra” by Sophocles as adapted by Frank McGuinness was Directed by Susan P. O’ Hearn. The Production was Stage Managed by Melissa Sherry who also served as the production’s Scenic Artist. She was assisted by Karen Guilliams and Katie Dembesky who both also served among the production‘s Carpentry Crew. Yoshinori Tanokura designed the set as assisted by Gillian Reinartz and Costumes as assisted by Felicia Revero (who also was a part of the Carpentry Crew) and Ahleea Zama. The Lighting was designed by David Dougherty, and Michael Thomas was the production’s Technical Director. Meg Dowling was the production’s Light Board Operator and a Carpenter while Marie Steeger served as the production’s Sound Designer and Board Operator with Albert P. Borges who served as the Sound Editor.

The production’s Master Carpenter and Shop Foreman was Robert McIntyre. The Property Master Shamus Halloran who was assisted by Elyse Burnett and Kelsey Pulzone. The Production’s Electricians were Michelle Tuite who also served as a part of the Carpentry Crew and as one of the Scenic Artists and Tim Hahn. Stephanie Clare was part of the running crew. Members of the Carpentry Crew not already mentioned were Jackie Knollhauff and Merrill McGuinness. The House Manager was Tiffany Cruz, the Box Office Manager was Jessica Pachuta, and the Poster and Program Cover Design for the production was done by Lauren Moffett.

This production of “Electra” by Sophocles will continue its run at The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in East Stroudsburg, PA at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center in it’s Smith-McFarland Theatre until December 5th and is recommended for those who are want to see excellent theatre that is fearless in its approach to the art. Future productions include The 2011 Stage II Student Directed One-Act Plays to be presented February 8th - 13th featuring A Tennessee William Festival consisting of the works titled, “The Pink Bedroom,” “The Lady of Larkspur Lotion,” “Auto da-fe,” and “This Property is Condemned.” The East Stroudsburg University Department of Theatre will also present their production of Noel Cowards “Blithe Spirit” April 12th - 17th. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Theatre Department at 570-422-3483 for more information and to reserve your ticket.

No Photographs were provided.

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