In this clever but superficial adaptation of The Bacchae, directed by Carl Forsman, the ecstatic cult of Dionysus has been transformed into an extended orgy presided over by a remote, oracular rock star. Euripides’s original is about a young god taking brutal revenge on his own family, but Eric Winick’s contemporary version—populated by Williamsburg drifters burdened with so-square-they’re-hip names—has nothing this meaty to work with, so it tries to get by with the lame assertion that pop culture is the equivalent of a Bacchic cult. But tellingly, the minutiae of Winick’s characters’ lives are much more interesting than the ostensible crux of the play. Penn, played by Mark Alhadeff as a cocky, confused young cad, has a thing for Orthodox Jewish women. Agatha (Audrey Lynn Weston), his starry-eyed live-in ex, wants to find herself, while Inez (the excellent Sarah Nina Hayon), a lapsed Orthodox wife, wants to lose herself. These three address the audience in a series of engaging monologues; that’s why it’s so disappointing to see their individual stories subsumed in the service of a furious, forced climax. And the play’s contention that loving classic movies, being a Jew, and dancing naked every night in Washington Square Park are all the same thing just doesn’t make sense. As Euripides knew, despite the universality of man’s search for meaning, the meanings that we find are not created equal.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 10, 2007