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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Charles Mee's Take on Iphigenia
Charles L. Mee updates this classic tragedy in a version which goes far beyond mere translation. It's the third in his tetrology, given stunning voice in City Garage's "Three by Mee"season, under the direction of Frederique Michel whol is an artistic director in the full sense of the world. Not only does she draw out the raw emotions painted by her characters and explore the nuances, she reinforces them with visual elements that make the City Garage's tiny space a miniature colosseum. Production Designer Charles A. Duncombe has designed small playing spaces on each side of the main stage, a boat used mostly to enclose women across stage rear and a pedestal bearing a woman's long white Victorian wedding gown, behind which female characters pose, keeping a feminine presence very much to the forefront. His lighting design is shadowed and unobtrusive, fulfilling its intention not to distract from the characters. The women's perceptively designed gowns highlight Josephine Poinsot's costume design.
Mee contemporizes his version with the soldiers' references to killing innocent victims in a Peugeot and being content with such small rewards as porn magazines, marijuana and corned beef hash. But his reworking goes far beyond the schoolgirl sexual fantasies of the bridesmaids and the luxury honeymoon spots enviously described by the soldiers. Although slowed by such sequences as George Washington's dinner party admonitions (some of which have remained grossly contemporary, alas!), most of the play works dramatically and reinforces Mee's reputation as a writer whose historical grasp permeates the present.
The play begins with a long somewhat didactic monologue by Agamemnon (Troy Dunn) about the materialistic causes of war. Dunn delivers this in an uninflected monotone which, though it lacks compelling dramatic emphasis, projects the impression of inner questions profoundly considered. As the play progresses, his performance deepens in agonized indecision, pain and ultimate rigid resolution. His qualms are reinforced by the appearance of his family.
Clytemnestra is given dignity and beauty by Marie-Francoise Theodore and Iphigenia is a creature of innocence, purity and delight as portrayed by Crystal Clark. Strong support is supplied by Bo Roberts as Menelaus and Sam Littlefield as Achilles.
Mee gives the ending a feminist voice as Iphigenia herself declares her sacrifice is what she was born to do, more fulfilling than working for a law firm, social work or improving the environment. The final tragedy is that, after she and her father leave the stage to execute the sacrifice, the soldiers and bridesmaids fall into a scene of rape and hedonism that, whether war or orgy, leaves us with a giant question mark about the validity of such a sacrifice.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
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