Theatre Performance Reviews
Lincoln Center Festival
Martha Cooper, Director of Marketing
Itim Theater Ensemble
In Collaboration with Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv
By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
La Guardia Drama Theater
July 12, 2003
Adaptation and Direction: Rina Yerushalmi
Original Music: Avi Belleli
Set Design: Rafi Segal, Eyal Weizman
Lighting Design: Avi-Yona Bueno (Bambi)
Costume Design: Anna Chrouscheva
Projection Design: Idan Levy
Performed in Hebrew
(Simultaneous English Translation through a Listening Device)
By The Company
This was a fascinating experience, to attend an Israeli theatrical production, accompanied by Elie Lazar, Artistic Director of Joffrey Ensemble, a native Israeli, and to wear a listening device that softly gave me either the female or male characters' words in English by a female or male translator (Aharon Shabtai and Shimon Buzaglo). These translators rarely hesitated in offering what turned out to be horrific dialogue, related to the quintessentially dysfunctional family slayings in the House of Atreus. This dramatic work is Director, Rina Yerushalmi's, professional response to "the bloody cycle of violence and revenge which is tearing Israelis and Palestinians apart". (Festival Notes).
Without divulging the horrors of the House of Atreus and the original reasons for the great curse, the main characters in Mythos are Electra and Orestes, children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who are determined to avenge the death of their father, Agamemnon, who was murdered by their mother, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus. Orestes, rumored by the chorus to be dead, returns to the House and is persuaded by his sister to first murder their mother's lover and then to murder their mother, which he does. The Furies, Goddesses, bring all the dead characters in their lives back to haunt the children as a living Hell. (Many of the Martha Graham Dance works relate to Greek Mythology).
During the pain of memory, we witness the fatal sacrifice of Iphigenia at the Straits of Aulis, in order that the Goddess Artemis (See ABT Artemis Review) release the winds for the sailing of Greek ships in the war against Troy. We see bones and the Chorus, as well as the memory of their mother's trap that killed their father and his concubine. To the chanting of lamentation, with bloody scarves and bones, Electra and Orestes watch their own trial, at which they are doomed to exile and death.
The Woman, the Chorus Narrator, who is actually a man, is quite effective, as he retells the entire series of horrors, of the original sealing of fate of the house of Atreus, over and over. In case the audience has not totally absorbed the horrors, the full Chorus also retells the horrors more than once. The projected images of the stars give the astrological ties to this tale new meaning. The extremely interesting set, with layers and layers of moveable, wide panels that create the stage floor, vehicles for mirrored lighting effects, backdrops to lean against, and varying levels of positions for soliloquies and laments, was quite well conceived.
I found the props: Blood-soaked material galore, axes, bloody veils, bones, and even a severed head (thankfully covered, in part) to be a bit much. I found this event, with two and one half hours of constant horror, to be a similar experience to viewing documentary and thematic films about the Holocaust. The repetitive and predictable off-stage screams, thuds, and sudden darkness, followed by new arrivals of bones and bloody shrouds, was not exactly the makings of a relaxing, summer evening at the theater. However, this work was created to highlight the horrors of today's political unrest and violence in Israel with its warrior neighboring countries, and, to this end, I congratulate Rina Yerushalmi for her courageous staging of Mythos, as a part of Lincoln Center Festival 2003.
Kudos to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for Lincoln Center Festival 2003.