Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New York's alright if you like Sophokles..

I'm sad that, right after writing that huge post on Lucio Fulci, I found out the Wooster Group is doing a mash-up of Dido & Aeneas AND Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires. I can't think of anything that symbolizes my interests any better in one thing. Classical myth? Cult horror films? Theatre? And all my previous rants aside, I don't mind going avant garde sometimes, especially if you've got the Wooster Group's bonafides.

But karma is kind, because the production I was afraid of missing, Classical Stage Company's An Oresteia sounds like a dud. Sadly, even this blessing is somewhat mixed, because the reviewer loves Euripides' Orestes (which is not continuous with either his Elektra or his Iphigenia plays) for ALL THE WRONG REASONS. I don't know how Ann Carson could have so awfully botched her translation of Orestes that it turned from a tragi-comedy (a la Shakespeare's Troilus & Cressida) into a plain old comedy. It's a play about high minded sentiments masking depraved cruelty and justice undone by political considerations, performed near the end of the Peloponnesian War, when Athens' folly was laid bare.

If there is any comedy in the play (and especially in William Arrowsmith's excellent translation), it's the darkest kind, laughing at how every character's words come to justify more and more grotesque ends.

It's easy to look back and laugh at people like Charles and Mary Lamb, Colley Cibber and Nahum Tate for having the gall to rewrite Shakespeare. But you have to wonder if, another couple generations down the line, if people will think the same thing about productions like these.