Electra by Euripides, currently running at the Mobtown Players at Meadow Mill, is many different stories in one play. On its face, it is the mere repetition of a legend—Mycenaean king Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War only to be beheaded by his wife Clytemnestra (sister of hero-gods Castor and Pollux) and her lover Aegisthus. The queen and her new consort then have her daughter Electra married off into obscurity, her son Orestes sent into exile and the legend ends inevitably with Orestes seeking revenge, killing his mother and her lover, and being hounded by the Furies for the crime of matricide. But it was Euripides’ talent to make epic tales of heroes into deeply human stories, and this particular performance is no exception.
…director Lizzie Jump cast an excellent ensemble. The chorus of housewives were constantly involved in the scenes, their expressions lending color and humor to some very heavy material.
The play opens on an idyllic scene—a farmer’s house, with a white picket fence framed by sunflowers, a trellis of green leaves and white flowers. This is the new home of Electra (Chantia Jackson), now a fallen princess, and her earnest, good-natured farmer husband (Daniel Douek). Electra is perpetually clothed in black, forced to repair her mourning dress in patches of red bandana, and seems constantly on the verge of tears despite her cheerful surroundings.
Her three neighbors (Joy Astle, Vangie Ridgeaway, and Hannah Folger) are all country housewives, and their very presence paints her as a spoiled brat unwilling to appreciate her new surroundings. Her character hardens after her brother Orestes (Eric Boelsche) arrives with his friends Pylades (Alex Smith) and “Steve” (Andrew Wilkin). Bent on revenge, this rendition shows a callous Electra driving her brother to matricide, leaving Orestes to suffer the consequences alone. Bolesche’s apparent youth, combined with an awkward posture, makes the murder all the more unlikely and the punishment (dealt out in a sonorous voice by the fantastic Will Carson) all the more heartbreaking).
Obviously, there tend to be some issues involved in producing a play from such a radically different time. In a Greek tragedy much of the dramatic movement tends to occur offstage—both Aegisthus’ and Clytemnestra’s murders, for instance. The dialogue, too, comes from 2500 years in the past, thus causing some moments to come out as rather discordant. An example includes that which I mentioned above—the contrast between Electra’s surroundings and her reaction to them is profound in part because it is mostly the social demotion that occupies her thoughts, having gone from royal princess to farmer’s housewife.
All that being said, director Lizzie Jump cast an excellent ensemble. The chorus of housewives were constantly involved in the scenes, their expressions lending color and humor to some very heavy material. They grounded a story that tended to run into high-minded lectures on nobility, vengeance, and honor. Andrew Wilkin’s performance as Orestes’ consistently looked-over friend was scene-stealing—particular when he had his moment of glory relating Aegisthus’ death, acting out the murder with unabashed enthusiasm.
All in all, this is a moving and often entertaining adaptation of a very classic play. I do recommend reading the director’s notes, however, as the context of Electra is somewhat difficult to understand without them.
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.
Electra by Euripides plays through September 29, 2012 at the Mobtown Players at Meadow Mill – 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Ste 114, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online or at the door.