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Mourning Becomes Electra at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company | Theater review

Eugene O’Neill’s post–Civil War recasting of Aeschylus gets a bracing revival.

Photograph: Johnny Knight
Annabel Armour and David Darlow in Mourning Becomes Electra at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

The simple yet elegant set for Mourning Becomes Electra has few furnishings but for some chairs, a bench and a row of Greek columns that loom over the drama unfolding in their shadows. The home of the Mannon family is held up by Greek architecture, and the lives of its inhabitants are rooted in Greek tragedy.

Eugene O’Neill’s post–Civil War reimagining of Aeschylus’ Oresteia cycle is director Timothy Douglas’s first production as Remy Bumppo’s artistic director, and he stays true to the theater’s mission of creating sophisticated, intellectually stimulating work. In O’Neill’s 1931 play, Lavinia Mannon (Kelsey Brennan) fills the role of Electra, a young girl trying to restore her father’s honor. When Lavinia reveals the knowledge of her mother Christine’s (Annabel Armour) affair with sailor Adam Brant (Nick Sandys), she sets off a series of events that dooms the entire Mannon family tree.

Tim Morrison’s sparse set works with the precise direction to place the focus on the acting. Douglas uses the full area of the stage to create tension through his blocking, putting space between the actors until they collide in outbursts of emotion. The Mannons are a family of predators, and they assess their prey from a distance before going in for the kill. Brennan and Armour share some electrifying scenes, both actors impressively navigating the whirlwind emotional journeys of O’Neill’s women. Their characters do awful things for the men in their lives, yet by stressing the love that fuels the hate, Douglas makes the conclusion even more tragic.

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