The Court Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executive Director Stephen J. Albert presents Nicholas Rudall’s world-premiere translation of Aeschylus’ tragedy, Agamemnon, directed by Charles Newell. This is the second installment of Court’s groundbreaking Greek cycle and it is a very contemporary take on the Greek play, which tells the story of King Agamemnon’s return after 10 years of fighting the Trojan War. The war may have ended, but the drama is just beginning!
The first words of Agamemnon are spoken by the Watchman (Gary Wingert) sitting on the roof of Agamemnon’s palace in Argos, Greece, lamenting about his life. Suddenly, he spies the flash of a signal fire that means Troy has been captured and he alerts Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, (Sandra Marquez), of the event. In the courtyard in front of Clytemnestra’s palace, who has been taking care of things in Agamemnon’s absence, the Chorus, a collection of old men (Alfred H. Wilson, Thomas J. Cox, Gary Wingert)and a Boy (Michael Ghantous) gather to discuss and learn more of what is happening. Clytemnestra appears on the palace steps and confirms that yes, the war has ended. The Chorus is still skeptical, after all 10 years is a long time to be engaged in a war, but then a Herald (Gabriel Ruiz) arrives and announces that King Agamemnon will return soon.
Greek plays are deeply rooted in the mythology of the time, and it is the gods that often controlled the fate of mortals. The history of Agamemnon’s family is one of murder, cannibalism, adultery, bloody slaughter, and revenge. In this case, we need to know that Agamemnon had asked the goddess Artemis for safe passage and success in their war withTroy. To appease Artemis, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, much to the horror of Clytemnestra, who was devastated by the act. We also need to know that the House of Atreus (Agamemnon’s family) has been cursed for past acts and all of this sets the stage for the events that follow.
Soon Agamemnon (Mark L. Montgomery) rolls up in his chariot; beside him is Cassandra (Adrienne Walker), a Trojan Princess and Prophetess who was taken prisoner. Clytemnestra appears to welcome her husband home and commands that purple fabric be rolled out for Agamemnon to walk on so his feet won’t touch the ground. Agamemnon is hesitant, wishing not to offend the gods, but Clytemnestra is insistent and Agamemnon capitulates. Clytemnestra invites Cassandra into the palace but she remains silent and Clytemnestra gives up returns to the palace.
The Chorus attempts to persuade Cassandra to go into the palace, but Cassandra begins to wail about how she is about to be killed. The Prophetess reveals the horrible past of the House of Atreus and the bloody future that will include her own death. She then goes into the palace.
The rest of the play unfolds with gruesome consequences as Clytemnestra takes her revenge. Aegisthus (Michael Pogue), Clytemnestra’s lover appears much to the outrage of the Chorus and they can only hope for the future return of Orestes, Agamemnon’s only son.
This adaptation of Agamemnon by Nicholas Rudall modernizes and simplifies the often difficult dialogue of Aeschylus, making it much easier for the audience to follow. His translation produces a snappy 90 minute 1 act play. Charles Newell once again has done fine work in coordinating the talented cast of actors, ensuring smooth transitions, although at times I found the Chorus to be overly enthusiastic. The cast shows great energy, especially Adrienne Walker (Cassandra), Mark L. Montgomery (Agamemnon), and Sandra Marquez (Clytemnestra) . The set, by Scott Davis, is simple and up to date with the translation, I love the massive doors, while the costumes by Jacqueline Firkins reflect the modern vision of the characters. Anyone who appreciates Greek tragedy and the plays of Aeschylus will find Agamemnon tight and enjoyable.
Schedule: Wed & Thurs.: 7:30PM
Saturdays: 3:00PM & 8:00PM
Sundays: 2:30PM & 7:30PM
Location: Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL
Tickets: $45-$65 Box Office: (773) 753-4472 or www.Courttheatre.org
Parking is available in the garage next to the theater
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