Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Mourning Becomes Electra”

Recommended Remy Bumppo has undergone some changes. The biggest one is their new Artistic Director Timothy Douglas who has expressed taking on some new, more adventurous productions in the coming season. His first, in this the year of “The American Evolution” ( they do a theme each year) is an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s drama ( American Tragedy ) “Mourning Becomes Electra” which is based on the Greek Tragedy, “Oresteia”. This new adaptation by Gordon Edelstein is far shorter than other versions, clocking in at just under three and one half hours ( three acts- two ten minute breaks) and yet despite its length, it seemed to run smoothly and very seldom did I witness anyone looking at their watch.

Directed by Douglas on a very simple stage set-up in the upstairs theater of the Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln Ave., this three sided venue has been converted to be two sides so that the actors are only playing to the sides on a long runway type stage with very little in the way of set or scenery, or even props. The lighting effects by Stephen T. Sorenson and the sound and music ( composed by Victoria (toy)DeIorio add a great deal to the mood of this tragic story about a family that “cursed”. No one is truly happy, but when any member of this family reaches out to find happiness, tragedy strikes. It all stems from a man who had two sons and one was sent off as he had an out of wedlock child with someone beneath their station. This was during the 1865/1866 period in New England ( Civil War just ending) and so status was important. The Mannon Family that is centered on in this play is made up of a father Ezra ( deftly handled by David Darlow), an Admiral in the navy, his wife Christine ( a wonderful character portrayal by Annabel Armour) and their two children, a daughter Lavinia ( played powerfully by Kelsey Brennan) and Orin ( Scott Stangland, who manages to get some comedy into this strange story). Christine is her son’s mother having very little use for her daughter, who is tied very close with her father. Christine it turns out is unhappy in her life and we find that she has chosen to have a lover while her husband is off at battle. But we soon learn that her lover is in fact the child that was born to the son sent away and his choice of her is not love, but revenge.

If this isn’t enough, there is a love/hate ( more hate) betwenn Vinie and Christine and after Ezra returns home, and learns the truth, he has a heart attack  leading to his demise. Did he die of the attack or did his wife poison him with her sleeping medicine? Lavinia thinks she has the answers and threatens to expose her mother and save the family’s good name and reputation as she takes over the role of Matriarch of the family.  Orin gets involved when he finds that his mother ( his own great love) is having an affair with  Adam Brant ( a strong performance by the always reliable Nick Sandys) and decides to avvenge the family in order to keep his mother for himself and shoots Adam. Mother seeing what has been done, knowing that her young lover will be no more takes her own life and wait- there is a lot more!

While this is a streamlined version of the play ( about 2 hours shorter), we get to ride the merry-go-round that this family lives on as we witness the Mannon Circle of life, murder, vengeance and reinvention. One of the great lines in this story is about how God tends not to leave us alone. Just when we think all is fine with our lives, he twosts, wrings and tortures our lives with others lives until we poison each other to death! Unlike the original version, this one has only three other characters, Veronda G. Carey as Seth, a sort of chorus as she chants to us and does short narratives, the lovely Stephanie Chavara as Hazel Niles ( who loves Orin) and Luke Daigle as Peter , her brother who adores and worships Lavinia. they are pawns in the telling of this story.

There were very few flaws in this production. I did find time to be a mystery as costumes ( Samantha C. Jones) were not changed as frequently as possible and in one scene we are at a wharf in Boston but just steps away from the Mannon estate. But, these are very minor flaws working in a small theater. The unused side of the theater was also a mystery and may have caused some confusion with audience members. Gauzy white fabric over black with some light shining through made people think that something might take place in that area. In fact, I assumed, knowing that the ghosts of all those that perish in the original come back on , thought they might just appear in that spot, but alas, not so. It was just a way to cover that seating area and put some lights in place. This play is not for everyone in that it is long, deals with plot that is not happy and has gunshots, but if you enjoy the old Greek tragedies, or if you love O’Neill’s works ( in particular this one) you will certainly enjoyEdelstein’s version and will get a feel for the future of Remy Bumppo.

“Electra” will continue through October 30th at The Greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, with performances as follows:

Wednesday thru Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

There are some special performances Thursday ,September 29th and October 20th at 2:30 and Saturday,October 8th at 2:30 p.m. On Saturday,October 15th, there will be a 1:30 p.m. “between The Lines” discussion followed by a 2:30 p.m. show

NO PERFORMANCE on September 28th

Tickets range from $40 and student tickets are only $20 purchased in advance with ID. Student “rush” tickets are $15 day of show, subject to availability

Call 773-404-7336 or online www.remybumppo.org

discounted parking is available after 5 p.m. atChildren’s Memorial Hospital lot, just 1/2 block north of the theater

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