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Highway to Tomorrow
By Les Gutman
O savage truth.— Euripides
Watch yourself. That's Dionysus (you may know him better by the name Bacchus) looking at you. You may think a god of wine is a harmless sort, but you'd be wrong. Indeed, much of what you see in Elevator Repair Service's rendition of Euripides' The Bacchae may appear to be a harmless romp. But appearances can be deceiving.
When last we came upon this company, it was for Total Fictional Lie (linked below), a play about the way we seem to behave in documentary films. Perhaps to demonstrate that their range is broader than pop culture, the Repair folk have skipped back a millennium and a half, and now take on Greek drama, with much the same inventiveness. Although Thebes has been moved to Saint Louis, and the stranger from the East hails from the Susquehanna, although many of the characters now walk around in hooded parkas and have American names, somehow the troupe pretty much conveys the whole story anyway. Only a few diffuse scenes keep the whole from being more than the sum of its parts.
Much to the chagrin of the king, Paul (Paul Boocock), Dionysus (generally portrayed by the thermos, above, in divine form, and by Randolph Curtis Rand when he chooses to reduce himself to human form) has enticed the women of Saint Louis from their homes and into the mountains (the Ozarks?) for -- what else? --Bacchanalian rites. A battle royal, of sorts, ensues between Paul, a non-believer, and the unforgiving god.
It's abundantly clear why the twisted mixture of drama, absurdity and dance that follows would appeal to ERS. Before they are finished, Dionysus will have Paul's mother (Rinne Groff) chop off her son's head (whilst he is disguised in a pink ball gown), and ruination will befall his entire family. This is a family, incidentally, presided over by Paul's grandfather, Carl, portrayed brilliantly by one of the building's structural columns, to which a pair of stick-on eyes has been attached.
There are two delicious performances by humans here: Susie Sokol as the prophet called Teri, and James Hannaham, who no doubt has Euripides rolling in his tomb as he acquits what is supposed to be a chorus of Asian women with gusto. His costume, adorned with dozens of those little plastic condiment packs one gets in Chinese restaurants, is the stuff of theatrical legend.
But don't let all of the high-energy camp and silliness fool you. Co-directors John Collins and Steve Bodow display a massive amount of ingenuity and some very well thought out ideas.
LINKS CurtainUp's review of Total Fictional Lie
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