Sometimes, the magic’s in the mistakes.
At one point during the Sept. 23 showing of Euripides’ “Orestes,” two actors found themselves unable to perform a necessary shoe removal, and the action stalled.
“Shit,” one actor said. “Anyone have a blade?”
The crowd erupted in laughter, and a man stepped forward to provide the knife that led the show on.
Welcome to Yale Cabaret’s production of “Orestes,” which opened Thursday. To see this ancient tragedy is to gain a sense of the community that permeates the Cabaret and that makes “Orestes,” which runs through tomorrow, something you shouldn’t miss.
Perhaps the most interesting choice Director Devin Brain DRA ’11 made was to set the play outside, in the Cabaret’s garden. The outdoor setting begets a rare intimacy: There’s room for only a small audience, positioned no more than one row back from the action.
As we are led into the garden, a single, haunting shriek pierces the air as drums ring out steadily and a woman sings a soft, melancholy tune to a man collapsed in her arms. Coincidentally, during this showing a light rain was falling as we entered the garden. These images conspired to set a perfectly ominous ambiance that did not lift until the baffling final scene.
“Orestes” centers on the plight of Electra and Orestes, the children of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon (where my DSers at?). After Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon to avenge the daughter he sacrificed to the gods, Electra and Orestes, by decree of the immortal Apollo, slaughter Clytemnestra and face the death penalty for their matricide.
To such vibrant young spirits, however, the idea of mortality striking so soon is too much to bear, and the play follows Electra and Orestes up and down the range of emotions as they attempt, in vain, to understand their situation.
The acting, to say the least, is top-notch. Emily Trask DRA ’11 shines as Electra, a character whose gaunt, stringy appearance directly mirrors her harried mental state and frenetic desire to avoid death at all costs. When this Electra speaks, you listen, especially when she’s flinging threats and accusations at you.
At times there appears to be a certain level of melodrama, but it’s inherent in the source material: Occasionally, Euripides’ lines induce eye-rolls. In fact, my main concerns come from the play and not the production itself. The show’s ending fails to provide any clarity and instead muddles any semblance of a clear message.
Despite these flaws, the cast executes the play in such a way that we do walk away appreciating a thorough analysis of how the young and vivacious handle the stinging inevitability of death when it is thrown at them. The intimacy of “Orestes” demonstrates that community, above all else, is central to truly affecting theater.
“Orestes” runs at the Yale Cabaret (217 Park St.) tonight and tomorrow at 8 and 11 p.m.