Critique of the Week – Runner Up

Some critics are able to move seamlessly from the world of edited print publications to the less-edited blogger-critic sites. Bob Verini of Variety and now ArtsInLA fame is one such critic. Unfortunately and with much due respect, I can’t say the same for Dany Margolies, longtime with Backstage and now one of the creative forces behind the emergence of the fine ArtsInLA, Dany seems to be one of those writers who desperately needs a word count and/or a strong editorial hand.

I’ve been reading her reviews at ArtsInLA over the last few months and much to my dismay she seems to be losing the ability to form and communicate a coherent opinion on the shows she’s been seeing, usually getting lost in a prosaic quagmire of her own making. When she was at Backstage her reviews were concise and to the point, at ArtsInLA she seems to be trying to ply a type of rhetorical style that simply makes my head hurt.

Case in point, the below review. I had to read this one three times before I could even manage to glean a glimmer of how she really felt about the overall production – mostly she liked the direction, it seems, and some other smaller design elements. Overall though, I’m just not sure. I had to take a leap with the LemonMeter and gave it a Sweet. I’m not asking for black and white distinctions, I’m a fan of nuance and even flourishes in style, but please, for everyone’s sake, form an opinion, even if that opinion is one of total confusion. 

ORESTES 3.0 INFERNO
Dany Margolies – ArtsInLA

Apollo, god of healing and truth, pops onstage for a chat with the audience. He is clad in Bermuda shorts and sunglasses, a party boy. Does his makeover shake our core beliefs? If our gods aren’t who we think they are, how can we put one foot in front of the other and keep marching through life? And then he says, “Just because a god commands it, doesn’t make it right.” Were we ancient Greeks, would we have bothered going home from the theater?

Thus begins Charles L. Mee’s Orestes 3.0: Inferno (upgraded from his Orestes 2.0) directed and choreographed by Frédérique Michel. Based on the Euripides original, this production reminds us how modern the Greeks were—or how old-fashioned we are—as humankind continues its savaging of family and culture. After all, mom had killed dad, so son has killed mom and now is in an incestuous relationship with his sister. What’s a civilization to do about that?

The play concerns rationales and blame and forgiveness. It also lets Michel ply her stylish taste. In Michel’s signature palate of black and red, Apollo (Erol Dolen in a lively, fun-loving portrayal) pulls mom’s body away on a river of blood. The act clears the stage for the very personal (Megan Kim’s topless Electra gets washed by silver-voiced operatic singer Samantha Geraci-Yee as the muse Clio), as well as the very public (a court of law presided over by Nathan Dana Aldrich as a keffiyeh-draped, yes, Sophocles).

Orestes (Johanny Paulino) gets advice from his bangder cousin Pylades (Justin Davanzo in a clear, stageworthy portrayal): commit more murder, topped with a bit of kidnapping. The victims? The glamour-puss Helen (a classily comedic Katrina Nelson in vivid red, whether a 1940s-style swimsuit and cream fur coat or an off-the-shoulder Grecian-column dress, among the highlights of Josephine Poinsot’s lively costume design) must be slain and her young daughter must be kidnapped (fortunately, Hermione is here portrayed by a life-size doll, wielded with Henson-esque skill by Dolen).

Of no help to Orestes is his bombastic uncle Menelaus (Daryl Keith Roach). Of much help to the audience is Orestes’s grandfather, Tyndareus (the fearless Bo Roberts), who reminds the listener that there are words our culture is told not to say, and yet one can commit murder and be allowed to find the words to justify it.

Another very human presence onstage is Nikos (sympathetically played by Mitchell Colley), a sweet soul who loves Clio unrequitedly. Three Furies (Leah Harf, Mariko Oka, Megan Penn) pursue the presumed evildoers and seek retribution.

Musician Justin Bardales provides unobtrusive but propulsive drum and guitar licks to accent Michel’s sleek storytelling.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Sandra Zeitzew says:

    And yet, and yet, and yet… and perhaps this goes to the ongoing dialogue here about the nature of reviewers and critics and bloggers, this review tells me everything I need to know about this play and whether or not I’d want to go see it. Kudos to Dany for mentioning all the cast and tech folk too. P.S. I Think the “sleek storytelling” is a dead giveaway for a “sweet” review.

  2. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    I hear you, Sandra, and I’m glad you were able to decipher this one more clearly than I could. It’s just a trend in Dany’s writing that I’ve noticed since she left Backstage.