Review: These Seven Sicknesses
Sophocles' surviving tragedies get energetically sent up by the Bats.
Tue Jan 31 2012
Photograph: Laura June Kirsch
These Seven Sicknesses
These Seven Sicknesses at Flea Theater
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
First, disabuse yourself of a few notions. You may believe that These Seven Sicknesses—Sean Graney's radically overhauled version of the seven extant Sophocles tragedies—lasts five hours. Sorry, masochistic marathon enthusiasts: It runs four and a half, and that's counting massive intermissions spent chatting with the Flea's non-Equity company, the Bats, and eating a tasty curry. It also foils expectations by excising Sophocles' tragic bits (slapstick replaces horror), religious bits (the gods have been cut) and poetic bits (the chorus now croons close-harmony songs and cracks wise). So what is left? In Ed Sylvanus Iskandar's sloppy, inventive, careering production, we're left with just an impression of chaos and movement and bad Bronze Age decision-making. More than 30 Bats swoop and flutter about, trying to balance between off-the-cuff casualness and the occasional epic breakdown, while simultaneously serving as our waiters and asking—eagerly! constantly!—about our level of enjoyment.
Graney's puppyish adaptation (Creon: "Are you, like, banishing me?") might remind you of David Johnston's wonderful 2007 CliffsNotes Oresteia, but with less control and acerbity. The formula is still fresh; ancient tragedy loves a good lampoon. The real trouble here is in assigning an epic evening structure to plays that have been so conceptually downsized. The game young company is frequently outmatched by even these breezier versions—whenever required to go full Greek, as in the unmockably grim Ajax, they fail. So why make them? In Antigone, we see how well Graney's approach serves confident, funny actors like Katherine Folk-Sullivan and Stephen Stout. It's a shame, therefore, that they've had such an odyssey to get there.