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|A CurtainUp Review
By Jenny Sandman
God bless Chuck Mee. He is consistently one of America's drollest and freshest playwrights, using his former profession as a history professor to startling advantage. Few other playwrights can claim such a cult following. He's been a big hit in New York, and he's found his soulmate with director Ellen Beckerman. She directed Mee's The Trojan Women (in the same venue) as well as an earlier production of Orestes at HERE which CurtainUp's Les Gutman reviewed in 2001.
Orestes, like all of Mee's plays, is a pastiche of the old and the new. The story of the House of Atreus is intercut with testimony from John Wayne Gacy, TV game shows, dance numbers and stories from sex workers. The deus ex machina is delightful, coming in the form of the voice of Apollo, who sounds rather like Rod Serling with a Southern twang. Mee's postmodern mix isn't facetious or pretentious--every seemingly unconnected moment reveals something new about the ancient text, making for a very surprising and very enlightening play. He's like the Christo of the theater world.
It's an amazing production. It's been revised and refined since 2001; Beckerman's unerring instincts are matched only by the cast's bravura performances and Bray Poor's inspired sound design. The three actors--Margot Ebling, Shawn Fagan and James Saidy-- again play all 21 characters with no costume or set changes, utilizing their Butoh and Suzuki training. A superb trio, they bring the play to life, embodying a group of people burdened by demons and beset by tragedy. And at 85 minutes long, there's no reason not to see this play, especially at just $19 a ticket.
Orestes in 2001
The Trojan Women
Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited)/Mee with Martha Clarke
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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