Wassup Rockers

The Bacchae @ Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park).

Almost forgot that The Bacchae is opening that the Delacorte.  I went to see it on August 15, and although I worried that maybe it was too early in previews to get the fullest sense of the production, the production was slick and fully formed when I saw it.  Unfortunately, it left me quite unmoved.

I’ve never actually seen a Greek tragedy on stage, I’ve only encountered a couple on the page.  My knowledge of theatrical conventions is very limited.  And the story?  I had no clue.  Except not quite–I read some press before I went to see the show, and realized the storyline was similar to one in Sandman.  In the comic, however, the Bacchae only appear briefly in a retelling of the Orpheus myth.  The bloody ending is pretty much the same, though.  Regardless, I just want to point out that this is further proof that Sandman is much more complex and sophisticated than the average civilian is willing to admit.

But back to the production.  The stage structure was kinda cool, there were these risers, staggered, so that this structure mirrored the seats in which the audience sat.  In a lot of scenes we could see the supporting players sitting there, listening in to whoever had the floor and reacting silently to what they heard.  There were a lot of instances when the actors would run up and down these risers, and, being the asshole that I am, I kinda wish I’d gone on a rainier day, because the entire night I was just waiting for someone to fall.  I’m not even sure why, I guess I thought it would bring more excitement than whatever was happening on stage, you know?

The narrative, I was disappointed to realize, was just that: a lot of telling and not showing.  And I had to accept that those were the conventions of the day, that this, being a violent tale, would have all this violence happen off-stage.  Oddly enough, I compared notes with a coworker who hated the play, and she said the opposite, that they’d showed too much.  I think what she meant to say is that the show lacked in subtlety and just banging it over our heads.

It wasn’t just the telling-and-not-showing that bothered me.  There were several people on stage, and I couldn’t fucking tell you who these people were.  So not getting a true sense of who they were, how could I feel closer to them and feel their pain?  It was such a mystery to me.  Was something lost in translation?  Is Euripides a hack?  Or maybe the production didn’t do justice to the source material.

I liked the music a lot.  It was a surprise to me.  I’ve seen Philip Glass before, but I have no grasp of what I heard the first time around.  I don’t know if I hated it or what, but the fact that I don’t remember much of it can’t be good.  I found the music here more memorable, though some of the chorus’s lines were delivered in a goofy manner.  But as background music I thought it had good momentum.  It was probably the best part of a lukewarm show.  I also want to point out that the chorus wasn’t awful; I liked their costumes, which were in a really popping orange, and I liked how they executed the choreography.

I don’t know that most of the directorial choices were the wisest, though.  Like I really looked forward to my first time seeing Jonathan Groff on stage, and it was just…  I’m just going to pretend that he’s a good actor and that I didn’t see him in the right thing.  I was actually impressed by how he managed to prolong his evil laugh, but it was a very obviously broad evil laugh, which only made me think that he’s too nice.  Unless it’s that he’s incapable of doing something more subtle and sinister, for the moment I’m going to blame the director.  Darn you, JoAnne Akalaitsis!

Oh, and unlike what happened in Hamlet last year, the use of fake blood here was disappointing and silly.

Time to go to sleep, sorry if this post was overly crabby, just thinking about the time and money that went into this less-than-stellar production upsets me.


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