Review: Bare Boned Theatre’s “The Hecubae”

The Hecubae Strains Between Ancient Poetry and Horrendous Modern Reality

Polyxena (Beth Allin, R) awaits sacrifice by the Son of Achilles  

Bare Boned Theatre presents

The Hecubae
by Rebekah Walendzak and Jeffrey Brouthiette
directed by Jeffrey Bouthiette
Running through Sunday, August 30th  (buy tickets)

What is Hecuba to us or we to Hecuba? The obvious answer could lie in the present-day struggles of women eking out an existence in war torn camps for displaced The ghost of Polydorus possesses the women of the chorus (clockwise from left: Cynthia Shur, Lorraine Freund, Sienna Harris, Emily Friedrick). persons. Bare Boned Theatre’s playwrights Rebekah Walendzak and Jeffrey Bouthiette have attempted to mesh the excruciating suffering of contemporary women in the midst of war with Euripides’ classic tale of a war-devastated queen. Unfortunately, what they have gained may be just equal with what they have lost in the process. Furthermore, substantial lack of clarity in some scenes may ruin the theatrical experience for those unacquainted with the original work.

On the plus side, the general shift in the play, from Hecuba surrounded by her attending women to the women being refugees in a contemporary camp, strengthens the Greek choral moments of the original play. Directed by Bouthiette, the unity of The Hecubae’s all-women cast is resilient and undeniable. Moments of song evoke the greatest power and hope for their survival.

One Greek choral moment in the beginning, however, must be thoroughly revised for greater clarity. The choral performance of Hecuba’s youngest child being killed by a trusted friend and ally is far too confusing. And the use of a woven mat to represent her child is far too amateur for this production.

Hecuba (Samantha Garcia) grieves the death of her daughterBare Bone’s modernization of Euripides becomes more effective with smaller touches—such as when a soldier with ruined legs, mounted on a makeshift cart, wheels onstage to tell Hecuba the latest bad news. The scene where Odysseus uses graphs to explain how Hecuba’s daughter will be sacrificed ranks as a near-perfect portrayal of rationalized brutality. Casting the young Samantha Garcia as Hecuba follows Bare Boned Theatre’s philosophy of non-traditional casting, yet Garcia’s command of Euripides’ poetic language conveys her Hecuba as noble as well as fallen.

How sad it is, then, when this adaptation splits scenes in such a way that poetry and dramatic tension are lost. Then contemporary travesties only obscure, instead of enlighten, Euripides’ words and drain away the potential for Hecuba to stand for all women in war.

Hecuba (Samantha Garcia, left) watches Hec015

It’s back to the drawing board for the playwrights. They must strive once more, not only to sustain a dramatic arc through crucial scene changes between the ancient and modern camps, but also to personalize and particularize the suffering of modern women in war for a truly meaningful adaptation. In general, clichéd representations of women’s suffering or victimization do not move people. People can feel sorry for the women represented in such a drama, but they cannot become emotionally engaged with their suffering as audiences should be.

Euripides knew how to make his deeply sexist, predominantly male Greek audience identify with Hecuba–with her powerlessness, her outrage, and her descent into dehumanizing violence. He could pull them from their positions of male privilege and plunge them into the profound depths of loss and despair that women in war know. We should be so lucky to have the same done to us.

Rating: «
 

Full Cast: Beth Allin, Lorraine Freund, Emily Friedrick, Samantha Garcia, Sienna Harris, Earlina “Earl” McLaurin, Cynthiaq Shur

Creative Team: Mike Smith (lighting design), Jeffrey Bouthiette (sound design), Matthew Buettner (scenic design), Aly Greaves (costume design), Chris Radar (Stage Manager)

Think Fast – Jerry Springer, theatre ticket refunds?, Tim Gunn, and Writers’ Theatre London tour

  • Is it a good idea for theatres to offer your ticket money back if you did not enjoy the play (as the Goodman Theatre did in El Grito del Bronx)? Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones thinks not.
springer-in-chicago-the-musical
heidi-and-tim
  • Starting this Thursday, August 20th, The Coach House (950 W. Wolfram – map) will kick off its weekly “Project Runway” viewing parties with the hit show’s new season premier.  Come play drinking games with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn with many of the bar’s drinking specials. (maybe a shot every time Tim Gunn says “Talk to me”? or “Work, work, work!”??).
  • Writers’ Theatre is offering a London Theatre tour, December 30th thru January 6th, which will be led by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and former chief theatre critic of the Chicago Tribune Richard Christiansen.  Enjoy some of the world’s greatest theatre; visit with some of the world’s greatest actors; experience insider encouters with local theatrical leaders; fine dining, fascinating conversation, exhilarating drama!   For more info, contact Rachel Weinstein at 847-242-6005.  Space is limited, so act fast. 

Review: Light Opera Work’s "My Fair Lady"

My Fair Lady 

Light Opera Works presents

My Fair Lady
based on George Bernard Shaw‘s Pygmalion
book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe
through Sunday, August 30th (buy tickets)

One of the crown jewels of Broadway’s Golden Age of Musicals, My Fair Lady, from its original Tony Award-winning production, to its best-selling cast album, to its Best Picture-winning film, may well be the best-known and most often produced entry in the musical theatre canon. And it has all of the hallmarks of its genre: the gorgeous melodies, the comic show stoppers, the happy ending… Since 1956, everything about My Fair Lady has been inescapable, as warm and familiar as Higgins’ slippers.

3439Fc Which is precisely what Light Opera Works is serving up at Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium (map) in Evanston. From the musical phrasing to the Cecil Beaton Ascot costumes, everything is as we remember it. There are no surprises – good or bad – and whether you consider that a blessing or a curse will determine how you respond to this My Fair Lady.

The performers have without exception strong voices and portray convincing enough characters, within the somewhat tradition-bound scope of their roles. Natalie Ford‘s Eliza is, by turns, plucky, elegant, and determined, and her “I Could Have Danced All Night” was, as it usually is, a  tour de force. Cary Lovett, as Liza’s father Alfred, and Jeff MacMullen, as erstwhile suitor Freddy, deliver their equally-well-known music hall-style and pining young lover turns with all requisite charm – and, in Mr. MacMullen’s case, with a soaring tenor voice that breathes real life into “On the Street Where You Live.” In a smaller, non-singing role, Jo Ann Minds brings a brittle wit to her portrayal of Higgins’ mother that would make Dame Judi Dench quite proud.

3439Fa Nick Sandys, as Professor Henry Higgins, is bit less successful – if by “success” we mean simply delivering a fascimile of what we’ve seen before. Sandys is younger – significantly younger, it would appear – than Rex Harrison in this part. His aristocratic good looks make Eliza’s attraction to him much easier to see, and throw his relationship with his mother into much sharper focus. Sandys is quicker, and brighter, as Higgins, his mind always at work; it is easy to understand this Professor not seeing the love blooming before his very eyes.

In the end, as the chorus of “I Could Have Danced All Night” swells through the full orchestra’s strings, and Liza goes to fetch Higgins’ slippers, we get from this My Fair Lady exactly what Light Opera Works promised. If you’re in the mood for a faithful recreation of a familiar musical classic, My Fair Lady will be performed through August 30th.

Rating: «««

 

Read more about the show after the fold.

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