Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Theater Review: The Bacchae

Bacchae in the Park is, Well … A Tragedy

By Lauren Yarger
Euripides is a strange choice for the Public Theater’s second offering this summer in Central Park. With strange jealous gods, debauchery and a lot of Greek tragedy, it’s not exactly a fun night at the theater. It’s also not easy to follow, even if you’re a Euripides scholar, which I’m not, but most of whom seem to agree that this play isn’t one of his best. And, it’s not written by Shakespeare.

Hence the conversations I overheard among audience-goers prior to the show: “Do you know what this is about?” “I’ve never heard of it.” “It wasn’t written by Shakespeare?” “Who is Euripides? “Never heard of him” “How do you pronounce it?” “Do you think it will be as good as Twelfth Night?”

After seeing Nicholas Rydall’s translation of the play, directed by Joanne Akalaitis with an original score by Philip Glass and starring Jonathan Groff of Spring Awakening fame as the god Dionysus who throws a fit because the people of Thebes aren’t worshiping him, I can at least answer the last two: it’s “bock eye” and No.

I’m not sure the other questions are answered satisfactorily, despite four pages of notes included in the playbill, telling us about Euripides and his times, a map of ancient Greece and a family tree for the royal house of Thebes. Except for Glass’ interestingly haunting score, a nifty metal stadium seating set under which some cool flames erupt, (John Conklin, set design), some very realistic thunder (Acme Sound Partners) and strong performances by Joan Macintosh as Agave, a mother tricked into brutally slaying her son, Pentheus (Anthony Mackie), the king of Thebes, and Steve Rishard, who gives a terrific, if brief, turn as a herdsman, there isn’t much here to make me a fan of Euripides.

At first, I even liked listening to and looking at the the all-female, culturally diverse chorus dressed in flames (Kaye Voyce, costumes)and dancing to the choreography of David Neumann. They went on too long, though, and if what they were singing was supposed to help the plot along, I think I missed most of it....

In other words, this production is interesting to hear and look at, but leaves you wondering why the Public would stage this play, not at all popular or known, when there are so many great ones out there (like the Oedipus trilogy – now there’s Greek tragedy I get excited about), all just waiting to come to life in the majestic setting of Central Park. It’s a tragedy all right.

The Bacchae runs through Aug. 30. For information, visit www.publictheater.org.

Christians also might like to know:
• Greek gods
• Ories described graphically, but not shown
• Blood soaked corps with visible parts; severed bloody head and blood on hands
• Don't be fooled by the "Cross Dressing in the Park" advertising. One of the characters dresses as a woman to disguise himself.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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