Orestes: A Tragic Romp.

Are you there, Apollo? It’s me, Orestes!

DIES VENERIS PRID. NON. MART. MMDCCLII A.U.C. | VII
Photographer: T. Charles Erickson
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Anne Washburn’s 2010 retelling of Euripedes’ Orestes is often referred to as a distinctly modern interpretation of the tragedy. ¹

I couldn’t disagree more. Catching the world-premiere at the Folger Shakespeare, I was struck by the rich pathos of Washburn’s retelling, in spite of the admittedly anachronistic dialogue.

This is Greek tragedy at its finest: the pointed political observations; the impassioned chest-beating of the Chorus; the cock-eyed reception of Euripedes’ beloved deus ex machina; not to mention the very excellent Chris Genebach [pictured below as war criminal —I mean, hero— Menelaus] as, oh yes, Helen of Troy — all in a venue so intimate, you could feel it in your chest when the players stomped their feet in unison.

I should like to imagine Aristotle & his peers might have appreciated (& shared) Washburn’s dark humour. I mean, it’s not like the gods usually liked their human subjects. ²

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¹ Washburn herself refers to it as ‘a translation, with liberties.’

² It’s virtually impossible not to crack up when you hear Lynn Redgrave’s deadpan Apollo addressing the cast.

Images used with kind permission. A million thank yous, sir!
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2012-Feb-05


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