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Ismene at Dream Theatre Company | Theater review

Oedipus’s surviving offspring says to hell with compliance in Jeremy Menekseoglu’s absorbing coda.

Photograph: Giau Truong
Anna Menekseoglu in Dream Theatre Company's Ismene

Writer-director Menekseoglu appends a coda to the Oedipus story in his gripping 2006 drama, expanded and revised somewhat for this new production. Picking up where Sophocles left off at the end of Antigone, the action centers on Ismene, the sole surviving member of the ill-fated Theban king’s spectacularly fucked-up family. She’s been sent by her father’s successor, Creon, to a school for unruly or superfluous girls where she meets other refugees from violent myths as well as the daughter of a death-avenging Fury. Soon, a mysterious, malevolent messenger (played by Menekseoglu) arrives for the purpose of reporting the girl’s suffering to the chorus as in any other tragedy. But practical-minded Ismene, deciding she’s had quite enough of wailing choruses, dire prophecies and capricious gods, declines to play the tragic role assigned to her. Enough, she figures, is enough.

Dream Theatre’s shows often look like something dreamed up by a demented, Victorian-era eight-year-old (but in a good way), and there’s some of that here too, as in the bi-level, spooky dollhouse set (designed by Menekseoglu and Giau Truong) and a head-scratching prologue delivered by a carnival barker and his human marionette assistant. But Menekseoglu the director doesn’t let his penchant for the creepy overshadow his script’s most affecting qualities—its aching sadness and impassioned rejection of foregone conclusions decreed by heaven. The cast’s perceptive performances deftly capture both of these aspects, conveying at once a sense of unfathomable loss and clench-jawed determination. Score one for free will.

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