Before Shakespeare, soap operas and Dateline, there was the playwright, Euripides, and the House of Atreus, a multi-generation pile-up of violence, vengeance and various bad behaviors. Two thousand five hundred years of Western civilization have passed, but family dysfunction remains the same. The current branches of this cursed family tree are siblings Orestes and Electra who proceed to carry on the tragic family tradition in The Mobtown Players' ELECTRA.
The older the play the more enunciation and rhythm of speech gain importance. American performers steeped in method acting know how to emote better than articulate. Thus the first act which is largely exposition suffers in comparison to the second act which is mostly action. Daniel Douek is perfectly likeable though not always comprehensible as Electra’s husband, The Farmer, and proves to be the only truly noble man among the whole sorry lot.
Chantia Jackson has the challenging task of taking Electra from miserable wretch to obsessed avenger. She is particularly effective when confronted with the body of her despised stepfather, Aegisthus who is the source of her demotion from princess to peasant. Eric Boelsche gives a modern slant to Orestes, Electra’s long-lost brother. His ambivalence and identity crisis is in contrast to his sister’s single-minded blood quest. Deb Carson elegantly presents their mother Clytemnestra as the high society ice queen who turns out to have as many twists to her character as the labyrinth from another myth.
The female trio (Joy Astle, Vangie Ridgeaway, Hannah Fogler) who serve as the chorus are updated to a sort of Desperate Housewives of ancient Argos. Their reactions to Electra’s self-pity inject some humor into the melodrama. And Orestes arrives with his version of Entourage, Pylades and Steve/the Messenger (Alex Smith and Andrew Wilkin). The cast also includes David Morey as the Old Man and Will Carson who literally comes booming in as the demi-god, Castor.
The set is spare which may put off viewers used to having virtual worlds pop up before their eyes, though the essence of theater is the interactive imagination between actors and audience. The Mobtown Players are not afraid to stretch themselves and challenge their audience.The result is a spectrum of productions that range from dismal to delightful. The Players,here under the direction of Lizzie Jump, consistently put their hearts into it, and their sincerity pulls them through the rough spots.
Euripides was the most progressive of three main Greek dramatists – Aeschylus and Sophocles being the other two. His plays lend themselves to new interpretations and modern sensibilities. Just like the real world past and present, there are few simple heroes and no right answers. Is destiny written or do we write it ourselves? Can justice be done without creating a cycle of neverending vengeance? For those who know Greece as great scenery, good food and bad debt, this is an example of what people mean when they say Greece started it all and gave birth to ideas eternal and ever-present.
The Mobtown Players, located at the Meadow Mill Complex at 3600 Clipper Mill Road in Hampden, will present Electra now through September 29th on Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m. and on Sunday, September 23rd at 4p.m. Tickets are $15 (general admission) and $12(students and seniors) and may be purchased at the door or online at www.mobtownplayers.com.