Orested Development

Greek tragedy, if the Greeks liked video and puppets

In Theodora Skipitares's productions (where actors with Bunraku puppets make the larger-than-life Greek myths surprisingly human), you can always expect moments of poignancy and beauty. In this adaptation of Euripides's Orestes, such moments, though frequent, unfortunately give way to bewildering directorial conceits and design choices.

While Kay Hines's video collages make this ancient play about a country and its ruling family coping with the aftermath of an unpopular war feel contemporary, the inclusion of a static image of the White House throughout feels strained. As Electra and Orestes (expressively performed with puppets by Sonja Perryman and Nicky Paraiso) await judgment for murdering their mother and her lover, music from Tim Schellenbaum and Yukio Tsuji (who performs portions live) gives Exiles true tension. Also powerful is a report of Orestes's murder of Helen from a Phrygian slave (acted by Chris Maresca, with Sheila Dabney emotionally delivering the text). These moments are undercut, though, by the two-person Greek chorus that resembles walking topiaries, thanks to costumes made of pup tents covered in camouflage material. Similarly ludicrous is Skipitares's design for the deus-ex-machina appearance of Apollo, where a golden Cheshire Cat–like head above a two-story silver lamé body represents the god. It turns what might have been a compelling tragedy into strange camp.

 
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