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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review

Respect the chaos — make room for it— Deon
Nicholas L. Ashe (Photo by Joan Marcus)
The only items missing from Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' ambitious but messy Girls, having its world premiere at Yale Rep, are cellphones. Otherwise, this modernization of Euripides'weird 5th century BCE Bacchae fits right in with our current solipsistic society where self is all and we communicate via technology.

Indeed, one of the first lines of dialogue, spouted by Deon (an appealing Nicholas L. Ashe), the androgynous figure based on Dionysus, is "I’m not here for anybody but myself."The Greek god of wine, theater and ecstasy is the embodiment of chaotic, orgiastic, private emotions (as opposed to Apollo’s steady, civilized, public intellect) has come to "a dense thicket of woods"(beautifully designed by Adam Rigg) to avenge his mother’s death. (In mythology, Dionysus is the son of Zeus'mating with a mortal woman, Semele. Here she, or her shade, is embodied in huge puffs of smoke.)

The women (and a few men) who follow Deon into the forest are a frenzied lot. Each has her or his moment in the spotlight, espousing on everything from revenge to ergonomic chairs, the latter strikingly delivered by Ayesha Gordon. Chief among the mob is Gaga (Jeanine Serralles), searching for her sisters while going increasingly bonkers.

Meanwhile, we see Gaga’s son Theo (Will Seefried), a young white supremacist with a yen for guns, contemplating a mass killing, talking to his computer via a live feed on a large, upstage screen. He’s visited by Dada (Tom Nellis), his grandfather, and Rere Haynes Thigpen), a blind man modeled on the ancient prophet Tiresias, who turns up later in several guises: a cowherd (which is serially confused with "coward”), a sheriff and an officer.

Through what seems like a druggie haze — an evening at the old Studio 54, perhaps — can be glimpsed a rebellion of a female plebian mob against the male establishment. By the time this has become clear, however, your eyes have begun to glaze over.

Which is not to say Girls is not vividly staged by director Lileana Blain-Cruz and choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, with the splendid assistance of costume designer Montana Levi Blanco, lighting designer Yi Zhao, sound designer Palmer Hefferan and projection designer David Bengali. Yale doesn’t stint on production details.

But, in this case at least, you may ask, "to what effect?"It remains a conundrum.

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Girls by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz
Choreography by Raja Feather Kelly
CAST: Nicholas L. Ashe (Deon), Jeanine Serralles (Gaga), Will Seefried (Theo), Tom Nellis (Dada), Haynes Thigpen (Cowherd, Rere, Acting Sheriff, Officer Ronnie), Gabby Beans, Ayesha Jordan, Daniel Liu, Karen Lugo, Zoe Mann, Maia Mihanovich, Anula Navlekar, Jennifer Regan, Gregory Saint Georges, Julian Sanchez, Jackeline Torres Cortés, Adrienne Wells, Amelia Workman, Jeena Yi (Ensemble)
Scenic Designer: Adam Rigg
Costume Designer: Montana Levi Blanco
Lighting Designer: Yi Zhao
Sound Designer: Palmer Hefferan
Projection Designer: David Bengali
Hair and Makeup Designer: Cookie Jordan
Production Dramaturg: Amy Boratko
Technical Director: Jon West
Fight Director: Michael Rossmy
Casting Directors: Tara Rubin/Laura Schutzel
Stage Manager: James Mountcastle
Running time: 1:30 (no intermission)
Yale Rep, New Haven, Conn., Oct. 4-26, 2019
Reviewed Oct. 11, 2019

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