Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Girls (After The Bacchae by Euripides)
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.