Y2K a go-go

The Bacchae Y2K

By Euripides
Directed by Denise Verrico
The Oberon Theatre Ensemble
The Producers' Club
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Andrès J. Wrath

The deconstruction and updating of classic plays are almost as old as the source material. In the 20th century (or what remains of it), the need to update a play, it is assumed, stems from the desire to find the universality of the source in contemporary times. It is easy to see why the Oberon Theatre Ensemble reworked Euripides's The Bacchae by placing it during the Millennium hoopla. Its central themes are greed and lust; with its hysterical apocalyptic vision, it fits right in with the Y2K paranoia. However, in order for this updating to work, the production needed a cohesive vision. It seemed, however, caught between its Y2K fixation and its classic conventions without fully exploring either one to its fullest potential.

Amazingly, Euripides's plays still hold with time. Not only are his characters psychologicallymulti-layered, his plays are complex in the quest for truth and justice. In The Bacchae, this question of justice is explored adequately but not thoroughly. Also, if this production were truly an update, then its Y2K theory should have been applied more fully. Instead we have gender-role blurring and the play set in the not-so-distant future. What transpired seemed more like devices, rather than elements to illuminate this potent material.

Director Denise Verrico had women playing some of the male parts with no change in gender; but she disastrously confused Dionysus, who is referred to as "he" even though it was clear from the costume on Laurie Bannister's body that she was indeed a she. Further, the acting tended to be more posturing than true human behavior. There were a couple of exceptions: Ms. Bannister had a strong presence even when the character of Dionysus wasn't clear; Nicole Godino's Pentheus almost made the confusing aspects of the production worthwhile; and Linda Hetrick as Agave astonished in the climax of the play.

Ms. Verrico showed an understanding of theatricality. All areas of the stage were alive with movement. Where the production faltered, however, was in its conception. When one tackles a concept, it helps to have all the elements unified. It was these unclear touches that made this Bacchae a frustrating and incomplete experience.

The set by Ms. Verrico and lighting design by Anne F. Carlton were adequate. The sound design by Barry Christopher and Shane Carson were terrific. Although the costumes by Carla Gant were strangely conceived, they were fun to watch.

(Also in the cast: Candice Delevante, Ellie Diez, Sarah Dye, Laura Emanuel, Laura Siner, Sandy Van Bremen, Kate Ross, Anne F. Carlton, Alta Morice, and Rebecca Stone.)
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath