Electra
West End Theatre, SW 12th & Taylor, 258-9313, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, closing this weekend, $10-15

I generally love Greek theater, both for its soap-opera trashiness and for the endless shadings of allegory and subtext. Sophocles' Electra is a cool play about sex, betrayal, and the inadvisability of vengefulness. Unfortunately, the Classical Greek Theatre and director Stephanie Sertich's current "experimental" production is based on the fundamentally flawed assumption that Greek plays must be re-contextualized to be accessible.

Electra's story of a daughter avenging her father's death by murdering her mother is prefaced here with a multimedia blitz of images from the Yugoslav war of the early '90s, while two characters inform the audience that "our play" is set in the midst of that conflict. But once the meta-shenanigans have ended and the play commences, there's not one additional reference to the Yugoslavian conflict. Sertich and Co. could have said, "this play is set between the left testicle and right thigh of J. Edgar Hoover," and presented just as much contextual relevance for the material that follows. The stated reason for setting this Greek tragedy in a modern conflict is to "demonstrate that Sophocles' play about war and revenge is only too relevant today." Greek plays, however, have universal themes; it's why we still like them thousands of years after their creation.

Stylistically, Electra is a hodgepodge of acting styles and technical decisions that fail to form a cohesive whole. The traditional Greek chorus is well cast as a posse of sexy, scantily clad dancing girls--can't go wrong there--but unfortunately the choreography is sloppy and uninspired. The costuming and music are equally slapdash, and tend to obscure rather than illuminate the text. The most that can be said for the rest of the cast is that no one is too bad: one has soulful eyes; one can do back flips; and one emits a terrifying banshee shriek.

In the future--and I hope there will be a future, because despite my kvetching there's potential here--Sertich would do well to stick to the text, and let the audience draw their own conclusions about what it means.

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