Orestes

Dream TheatreOrestes dream theatre company

Orestes

Written and Directed by:  Jeremy Menekseoglu

At Dream Theatre

Poetic Trip to the Underworld Rewrites the Rules of Classic Theatre.

When most people think of Greek Theatre they think of grand tragedy laced with soliloquies, monologues, and the endless tirades of the Greek Chorus.  Leave those preconceptions at the door when seeing Orestes at Dream Theatre, which is unlike any other show in Chicago because it utilizes a style that no other company in Chicago is currently doing (at least that I have seen.).  I believe that the folks at Dream Theatre have created an entirely new style of drama, Modern Greek Theatre.  That is to say they have developed their own set of rules and given updated context to arcane theatrical devices such as the chorus.  It makes me wish this was not my first experience with Dream Theatre because this is a style they have apparently been developing for years.  For those who are unacquainted, Orestes is a great introduction to this style as well as a poetically haunting evening of theatre.

Orestes dream theatre company

Orestes is the third part of the Agon trilogy by Artistic Director Jeremy Menekseoglu, which is inspired by the ancient Greek piece The Orestia by Aeschylus.  Since I have not seen the previous two installments of the trilogy it is difficult to look at the piece as a whole, so I will be evaluating Orestes singularly.  I have read The Orestia and am familiar with the overall arc of the story which is why I was so intrigued by the piece.  Rather than the focus being on Orestes (Menekseoglu), it is on Electra (Anna Weiler) and the consequences of her actions from the previous installment in the trilogy, Electra.  It has been six months since Electra and Orestes killed their mother in vengeance for their father, Agamemmnon.  After the murder, Orestes was dragged to hell and now Electra seeks to find a way into Hades to rescue him.  She finds a way back through Persephone (Theresa Neef), wife of Hades, and Cassandra (Alicia Reese), the captive of Agamemmnon who was murdered by Electra’s mother.  This is a journey that has some truly haunting moments and spectacular visual imagery.  I feel as though the play slows a bit in the first act, but barrels full steam ahead in the second.  The imagery in the final scene will haunt you for days afterward, you have to see for yourself to know why.

Orestes dream theatre company

The poetic  language of the piece is wonderful to the ear.  Even though certain scenes did run slightly long and a few scenes between Electra, Persephone, and Cassandra became repetitive; the dialogue was never boring.  The piece does a good job of updating newcomers such as myself to the story and the characters, but those not as versed in Greek Mythology may not gain as much from certain references or characters.  The encounter between Electra and the children of Medea (Bill Gaines and Giau Truong) was particularly memorable.  To see those characters present in the same world and share a conversation that presented the opposite situation of Electra was literary brilliance.

This is clearly a tight knit ensemble because apart from all of the duties taken on by Mr. Menekseoglu , other company members take on multiple tasks.  Anna Weiler gives a strong, conflicted performance as Electra while taking time to design the lights and help with costumes, set, and props.  Speaking of, the lighting wonderfully fits the tone of the piece; nothing is revealed until the necessary moment.  From the moment you enter the theatre Tryphosia (Annelise Lawson), the hotel owner, acts as your ticket agent and welcomes you to hell, and afterwards the entire cast and crew was in the lobby ready to greet you.  This group speaks their own language which is why certain choices were unclear to me.  The music choice was inconsistent, sometimes creating an eerie backdrop for a scene and other times being a distraction.  I also didn’t understand certain visual choices (specifically a yellow poncho in the first act), but it was clear to me that each prop, movement, and light transition was well thought out by them.  There is extensive collaboration between everyone in all aspects of the production, and their hard work is evident.

I wish I had seen the first two parts of the Agon Trilogy because then I may have had a more complete experience.  Perhaps if I had seen the trilogy from the beginning my reactions would have been different and any confusions would be been alleviated, especially since this was my first introduction to this style, However, if you are a newcomer like me, don’t be afraid to take this trip down to the underworld with Dream Theatre.  You will most likely enjoy what you see.

Recommended

Jake Lindquist

Date of Review:  7/24/2010

For full show information, check out the Orestes page at TheatreInChicago.

At Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th St., Chicago, IL.  Tickets $15-$18.  Thursdays-Saturdays 8:00 PM, Sundays at 7:00 PM.  For Tickets call 773-552-8616 or visit www.dreamtheatrecompany.com.  Running time is approximately 2 hours with 1 ten-minute intermission.  Through August 15, 2010.