Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Girls (After The Bacchae by Euripides)
Yale Repertory Theatre
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's reviews of American Underground and Mlima's Tale and Zander's review of Billy Elliot the Musical


The Cast
Photo by Joan Marcus
The world premiere of Girls (After The Bacchae by Euripides) opens the current season for Yale Repertory Theatre. Presented at Yale University Theater through October 26th, the show will, according to an individual's taste and receptivity, either delightfully challenge or assault the senses for a significant portion of its one hour and forty minute running time.

Three highly regarded theater artists bring varied talents to the project. They include playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, director Lileana Blain-Cruz, and choreographer Raja Feather Kelly. Euripides' Greek tragedy found Dionysus living at a time when wild parties were forbidden. Dionysus was a god and was restrained by Pentheus, King of Thebes. Yet, Dionysus seized upon a weakness within the king and managed to get him to a frenzied Bacchic occasion.

Jacobs-Jenkins and colleagues open up a large performance space and create a beauteous park. It is filled, through Adam Rigg's lovely, green scenic design, with trees, bushes, ferns, and more. Those sitting close to the stage may very well feel enveloped and welcomed to the environment. A blaring show will follow.

The entrance and opening informative monologue of Deon (Nicholas L. Ashe) is a highlight of the evening. He explains that, having been sent away to boarding schools for much of his life, he now has an opportunity to return, to facilitate and enjoy a festival. He sets up a table, and an amplified percussive beat begins. Ashe is perfectly poised on stage, addresses the audience as if everyone is sitting within his large living room, and provides a specific introduction to the proceedings.

The amplified sound frequently reappears through the rest of the performance. Again, some will respond positively and others will not be so pleased. A number of women make their way through the park. Most will be undulating, gyrating, and moving sensually. Choreographer Kelly and director Blain-Cruz coax the actors to maintain the flow. The performers are exceptionally well rehearsed; nothing is random.

Meanwhile, everyone views, through a rear projection screen, Theo (Will Seefried). He likes guns and is disturbed by what he sees. Theo's grandfather provides comic relief. With his white beard, Dada (Tom Nelis) is wry and off-beat. Seemingly once a hippie, he says,"I'm retired and looking for new experiences."

Gaga (Jeanine Serralles) is the most intriguing of all the women. She is trying to find her identity. Gaga claims that she should have been sheriff. She goes through changes of character, motive and costume (thanks to Montana Levi Blanco for all of her wardrobing) as Girls moves along. Gaga, a multi-dimensional woman, has reason to be frustrated and irritated. She speaks or she shrieks.

Many of the women are given opportunities to express themselves. Sometimes, however, the usage of such time is questionable. For example, one individual goes on and on and on about just how uncomfortable if not physically destructive the chair in her workplace office is. This is symbolic of dysfunction. It is justified, but this monologue is very, very lengthy.

All the while, Yi Zhao's lighting (which includes strobe and much more) is an active and sometimes distracting force. Combined with Palmer Hefferan's sound, a competition, with actors' dialogue, is created.

Jacobs-Jenkins, Kelly, and Blain-Cruz come together to devise an imaginative and cathartic experience for those on the stage and the audience Nothing is haphazard and the creators' gifts are obvious. Their success is accomplished through the physicality of the show. It is about humanity. Too much noise and too many glaring lights, though, work against the effectiveness of the production.

Girls (After The Bacchae by Euripides) runs through October 26, 2019, at the Yale University Theater, 222 York St, New Haven CT. For tickets and information, call 203-432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.


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