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A CurtainUp Review

By Amanda Cooper

Theater Faction's modern adaptations of the Oresteia trilogy once again proves the difficulties of striking a balance between maintaining the integrity of the original story and running with innovative impulses. Unintentionally, this young company's trilogy demonstrates how creativity can get the better of the theater artist, at least in two out of their three adaptations. Unfortunately that means two all too often disappointing hours to get to the good news example, The Eumenides.

The first of the trilogy, Agamemnon, embraces a rock star image for Clytemnestra, and a Bush-like dictator for Agamemnon. Using multiple TVs placed randomly on the stage corners, close-ups of the two actors are interspersed with street interviews of New Yorkers who make up the play's Greek Chorus.

Adapted and directed by Erik Nelson, this Agamemnon becomes saturated with chalkboards, Nintendo, and punk styles. In theory, these ideas are intriguing when applied to this legendary couple. In fact, they result a too slowly paced story bogged down with experiments. Saori Tsukada has great physicality as Clytemnestra but lacks meaningful facial expressions and speech. Chris Oden's creepy and powerful Agamemnon is solid, yet unable to move things along.

Yuval Sharon adapted and directed The middle play, The Mourners. He filled the stage with a strong ensemble of women and some great, quirky tableaus. The action is non-stop and busy -- in fact, too busy, with four different Electras: The main Electra, the internet Electra, the fitness Electra and the bathtub Electra. Though the story pacing fits, all the extra excitement onstage gave me a constant sense of either having just missed something important o, r conversely, that nothing was in fact important. Special mention should be given here of Sarah Fraunfelder, the main Electra, who carries a strong inner fire.

That brings us to The Eumenides has less action but succeeds where the other two do not. Maintaining the most original language of the three, adapter David Johnston enriched the traditional text with consistent smatterings of modern expressions, giving a timeless feel to the aged script. This Eumenides takes a philosophical, judge-and-jury approach to dealing with the perils that happened in the preceding plays. Director Kevin Lee Newbury is to be applauded for not padding this cerebral play with extraneous theatrical elements. He has directed the actors to bring purpose and clarity to their characters. All the actors are consistently strong, with the humor award going to Michael Bell as the god Apollo.

Perhaps it would have been better if the group had been less intent on having the directors create each play without any knowledge of each other's ideas and directing intent. As it is, this trilogy lacks cohesiveness and leaves Theater Faction with a long climb towards artistic maturity.

Oresteia Agamemnon
Performers: Saori Tsukada, Chris Oden
Written by: Aeschylus
Adapted and Directed by: Erik Nelson
Set Design: Katya Blumenberg
Lighting Design: Greg Emetaz
Running Time 1 hour The Mourners
Performers: Constance Tarbox, Laura Knight, Sarah Fraunfelder, Tia Shearer, Layna Fisher, Jonathan Day, Caroline Worra, Jeanne Lehman and Cara Consilvio
Written by: Aeschylus (adapted from Libation Bearers)
Directed and Adapted by: Yuval Sharon
Sound Design: Max Sanjulian, Lee Leaseburge
Dramaturgical Assistance: Cori Ellison
Running time 1 hour
The Eumenides
Performers: Cortney Keim, Beau Allulli, Kath Lichter, Michael Bell, Vivian Manning, NellGwynn, Heidi McAllister, and Lori Lane Jefferson
Written by: Aeschylus
Adapted by: David Johnston
Directed by: Kevin Lee Newbury
Costume Design: Jessica Jahn
Running Time 1 hour
American Theater for Actors, 314 West 54th Street, between 8th and 9th aves, 212-868-4444 or

All three run sequentially each evening, Thursday-Saturday at 8:00PM and Sundays at 3:00PM, January 16th - February 1st, except Sunday January 18th at 8:00PM and Monday, January 19th at 8:00PM
Tickets are $15
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on January 16, 2004 performance

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