14 September 2007

Blood Wedding

How long ago did you purchase tickets?

1. today
2. this week
3. in the past month
4. more than a month ago
5. the hour tickets went on sale because they're $20 and I wanted to make sure I got mine. Although they didn't sell out as quickly as the August Wilson tickets last year, they really should have, because Chuck Mee is awesome, and people need to recognize. This is theatre
, not just a movie on a stage, and to be doing a whole season of it for $20 a ticket, a whole season of beautiful, powerful, funny, strange theatre, is a bargain beyond what people seem to realize.

It's not that the theatre wasn't sold-out last night. And it's not that the theatre was full of the usual suspects of subscriptions - it was a real mix of blue-hairs and young folks, like a Public/MTC subscriber mixer. That would be a trip, wouldn't it?

Iphigenia 2.0 at Signature. A whole season of Chuck Mee. What could be better? (Maybe the upcoming Suzan-Lori Parks season. Or the next year's Tony Kushner season. Holy god it's going to be good.) Yes, if the three plays were flawless and tight, and the productions never flagged or faltered. Iphigenia 2.0 gets most of the way there, but I'd rather see something visually exciting and daring, rather listen to something weird and interesting, watch actors pushing themselves to strange and difficult and new places, and see it get most of the way there rather than a perfectly constructed, tastefully designed, skillfully acted thing that's just like everything else. This play doesn't work every moment, but when it does it's astonishing, and I'll gladly take the moments that don't work if that's the price.

I realized that my knowledge of the Oresteia is almost entirely based on adaptations - a thorough knowledge of Ellen McLaughlin's Iphigenia and Other Daughters, a visit to The Seven at New York Theatre Workshop, and a bit of research (asking James) to fill in the gaps. Iphigenia 2.0 takes a much bigger step away from its source material than the adaptations I know, altering a few major story elements, but it's still, like the other two, using the archetypal story to hit a point - where Iphigenia and Other Daughters is concerned with women and action, and The Seven is speaking to the black community about accountability, Iphigenia 2.0 is talking about war. Sometimes it's a little too easy (We're at war! Greece is at war! OMG parallels!), but the power of the production and the performances carries the play. Chuck Mee's writing hits hard - Tom Nellis' opening monologue as Agamemnon, and what I assume are found text sections from Army manuals and etiquette books. The wonky bits are more structural, sustaining-the-arc sorts of things.

The daring script sets the foundation for one of the most exciting productions I've seen in a while. (I strongly recommend this Times slide show for some really stunning production photos.) The most powerful moments for me were actually two dance sequences - Iphigenia arrives, her father just having told us that he's ready to sacrifice her, and (Louisa Krause is lovely and weird) she is the happiest girl in the world to see her father. She tackles him in a radiant hug, and drags him, and the ensemble, into an almost frighteningly spirited Greek folk dance. Watching Nellis' Agamemnon get caught up in the dance was absolutely heartbreaking. Later, the vaguely Greek-chorusy soldiers (brilliant performances from all four) perform a scary, intense choreography that's some melding of army exercises, step, and dance. It channeled something that went beyond the slightly-too-easy use of the soldiers to point to our current situation. This is a cheesy reviewy line, but by not saying anything at all, that moment said something powerful and real.

Like I said, this is not a perfect or 100% successful play. The astonishing energy and unexpectedness of the first half (it's an intermissionless show) flagged as the play went on. Was it Tom Nellis' absence for many scenes? Was the newness of the style unsustainable? Did the script succumb to easy choices to wrap up the plot? I'm not sure. But I'll forgive all of that for the moments of brilliance. I found myself thinking repeatedly This is theatre and This is the kind of theatre that I want to make. Theatre that's strange and beautiful, that looks like nothing else in the world, that's bodies in space telling a story.

I think the run's (mostly?) sold-out, but they take a waiting list, and even at 7:45 there were only, like, eight people on it, and most, if not all, of them got in. Go.


Mark said...

Yes! More of this old-school surplus, please - and less cats!

Jaime said...

Thanks, Mark. I like this better, too, but I haven't seen anything lately that got me excited enough to write about it. There's a message for the theatre artists of the world - make better theatre so I don't have to blog about cats.

Mark said...

I'm making swell art this week - hope to see you there!