Iphigenia... (A Rave Fable)

Euripides broke form when he wrote his two plays about Iphigenia, or so it seemed, for the young heroine appeared to have neither position nor tragic flaw as is required by classic form. Yet, the ancient Greek playwright was nothing if not clever.

Indeed, Iphigenia's father, Agamemnon was king, and her dilemma—at first pleading for her life and all that she held dear, then later insisting on sacrificing herself for her country and her eternal reputation—certainly encompasses major ethical questions.

Photo of Jacob Morehead as Achilles and Nissa Almquist as Iphigenia
Jacob Morehead as Achilles and
Nissa Almquist as Iphigenia
Photo credit: The Lida Project
So after experiencing the multimedia spectacle of Caridad Svich's Iphigenia Crash Land Falls On The Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave Fable), now running at the LIDA Project, the principle questions at the heart of the drama are whether the original tragedy gains relevance by setting it amid our present day McLuhanesque landscape of media overload, and whether the catharsis in Euripides tragedy, such as it was, translates to this modern adaptation.

Certainly, given the refinement in media techniques that Artistic Director Brian Freeland has developed over the years in a succession of compelling experimental works, there is no company in town more capable of realizing Svich's orgasmic convergence of language, video, and sound effects—and this production certainly does that.

Feeding live camera work through a computerized mixer (manned by Robin Davies) that distorts, colorizes, and periodically drops in pre-recorded video clips which are then layered on top of live sound mixing and techno-pop rhythms (by Freeland), the impressively synchronistic sensory backdrop for the production takes on a life of its own, offering compelling commentary on the electro-environmental disruption of contemporary consciousness.

Photo of Terry Burnsed as Virtual MC
Terry Burnsed as Virtual MC
Photo credit: The Lida Project
Amid this wall-to-wall stimuli, Nissa Almquist offers a disarming, baseline innocence as Iphigenia, caught between two worlds—the exigencies of her militaristic homeland as manifested in her father, General Adolpo (an imperious, cerebral Terry Burnsed), and the shiftlessness of her adolescent peer culture of raves and sexual awakenings.

Unprotected by her powerless, alcoholic mother, Camila (a gut-wrenching portrait by Lisa Mumpton), and dazed and confused by her handmaid, Violeta Imperial (a volatile mix of compassion and witchcraft by Hart DeRose), Iphigenia must face alone the prospect of sacrificing her life to further a military campaign and bolster her father's political career. Like the Bush twins, Iphigenia rebels, runs off, and attempts to hide in the Fellini-esque underground where she hooks up with Achilles (a sinister and seductive Jacob Morehead) and gets it on.

Photo of (L to R) Matthew Korda as Fresa Girl #2 and Terry Bursted as Fresa Girl #1
(L to R) Matthew Korda as Fresa Girl #2
and Terry Bursted as Fresa Girl #1
Photo credit: The Lida Project
Bounced around between a masked chorus of girly-boys, who bring home the tragic implications of it all, and a cast of characters worthy of Satyricon, Iphigenia is driven inward until she must face the inevitable consequences the Fates have in store for her.

In it's original form, Euripides' Iphigenia is a stretch for the modern mind, which, despite the growing fascist mentality of the industrialized world and with the exception of some brainwashed foot-soldiers, does not relate to homeland security with the same personal-collective gestalt that underpinned citizen loyalty to the city-states of Athens, Sparta, and the rest. Even the not so distant American Confederacy, where fealty was spread amongst the states, seems quaint and remote to us.

But the juxtaposition of the ancient Greek Iphigenia with contemporary youth culture in Svich's script is, upon reflection, strangely satisfying, contrasting the lure of immortal fame (a factor in Iphigenia's reconciliation to her martyrdom) in the Euripides script to our contemporary culture of instantaneous celebrity and obscurity (think American Idol mixed with Worhol's concept of 15-minutes of fame).

Still, the catharsis in Svich's Iphigenia remains elusive. We are touched by Almquist's genuine reverie as she reaches out to us before her rendezvous with destiny, convinced that she has somehow been transformed. Yet there is no elevation in this, for the tragedy does not portend the redemptive bang of a new beginning, but rather the drowning whimper of an individual crushed by a culture that has lost its soul—her once pulsing with love, blood-red infused heart now turned into a diluted pink neon sign, blinking a pale commercial echo of what was once life. If there was more there, it has been lost in the white noise.

The Lida Project's Iphigenia Crash Land Falls On The Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave Fable) runs through December 3rd. 303-282-0466.

Bob Bows


Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster