Theater archives

Aeschylus kills the king; inertia kills Aquila’s production


The decidedly limited pleasure of writing about the Aquila Theatre Company’s Agamemnon has been complicated by the company’s not only refusing to grant press tickets to a recognized critic—Jeremy McCarter of The New York Sun—but also refusing to seat him with tickets he had purchased himself through Telecharge. Aquila has attempted to justify its action, which will be of interest to guardians of several constitutional rights, including free speech, by launching a barrage of allegations against McCarter, not supported by any evidence I can discover. (Aquila claims he made damaging personal statements in a negative review of a previous production; the review in question actually leans over backward to be sympathetic.)

Aquila’s effort to control who is and isn’t allowed to view its performances—strangely echoing the behavior of Aeschylus’s usurping tyrant Aegisthus—might have some tenuous justification if the company were as effective with drama as with accusations. Unfortunately, there’s nothing here for the most vindictive critic to bother destroying: Aquila’s plodding, shapeless rendition turns one of the world’s most exciting plays into an inert, fuzzy object that often looks and sounds all too painfully like a high school class project in Greek tragedy. Even the presence of guest star Olympia Dukakis, as Clytemnestra, can’t enliven the proceedings much; her authority and vibrancy are always real, but her choices seem puzzlingly wayward, perhaps because co-directors Peter Meineck (who also translated) and Robert Richmond supply staging that seems designed to remove purpose and meaning from the action. Critics barred from witnessing it might consider themselves lucky.