‘Iphigeneia’ stunning at sunset

On a beautiful spring evening, when the sun is out late and the temperature is warm into the night, there is nothing I’d rather do than be outside. The great thing about going to see “Iphigeneia at Aulis”? It’s outdoors.

The play opened yesterday in the courtyard of 220 York St. and will be playing again this Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The play is directed by Cooper Lewis ’11, who also directed “A Winter’s Tale” last fall. “Iphigeneia” is fundamentally a very different production from “A Winter’s Tale,” which was much larger and took place in the Yale Repertory Theatre. In scene’s words, last semester’s production was an “experimental, punk-rock spin on a complex five-act Shakespeare play.” “Iphigeneia,” in contrast, follows many of the traditions of its genre. The last surviving play written by Euripides, it’s a Greek tragedy depicting the difficult choice King Agamemnon must make to either sacrifice his daughter or prevent the Greek troops from sailing to Troy, risking war upon his family and kingdom.

Agamemnon is played by Jared Wigdor ’11, and Agamemnon’s brother Menelaos, whose wife Helen is the source of all the grief and conflict, is played by Colin Murphy ’11. The tension really shows in the heated dialogue between the two:

“Is there no way you will show that you are of the same father as I?” he demands of Agamemnon.

“I will share in your reason, not in your madness,” Agamemnon replies.

But the tension between Agamemenon and Menelaos is not the only reason to go to see the play; all nine members of the play’s cast exploit the tragedy and moments of drama very well. Their roles are intense, and the small outdoor setting focuses particular attention upon detail. The audience sits in two rows in a horseshoe-shaped arrangement. Actors move about in the middle of this area, even approaching audience members and addressing them. Indeed, the entire courtyard is an integral part of the stage — chorus members climb onto the surrounding wall and peer down from the fire escape stairs and members of the cast appear from the balcony of 220 York.

Movement and proximity in this performance feels very organic and intimate; when Julie Shain ’13 (in the role of Iphigeneia) deliberates over her fate, you feel like a spectator during a very private moment.

Sarah Matthes ’13, Shunori Ramanathan ’13 and Charlotte McCurdy ’13 are fierce as the three chorus members, the “maidens of Chalcis.” McCurdy is poignantly expressive, anger seeping through her gritted teeth and anguish popping out of her doe-like eyes.

Justo Arosemena ’12 and Orlando Hernandez ’13 provide musical accompaniment on the guitar and percussion, respectively. Their music is quiet and moody, building up tension in certain moments and casting an eerie calm in others.

“It’s very different than most of Cooper’s plays,” says Danielle Tomson ’12, who acted in “The Mating Game,” also directed by Lewis in 2009. “Other than ‘Iphigeneia’ and ‘The Mating Game,’ which he wrote himself, Cooper has usually focused on Shakespearean plays,” Tomson notes.

But Shakespeare or no Shakespeare, Lewis knows how to stage a performance — it’s certainly nice to see a classic done well.

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