Monday, September 13, 2010

Reasoning: Sophocles' Electra

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I saw a production of Sophocles' Electra the other night. The amphitheater has fabulous acoustics and the production used the Roman-style building behind the stage as the house that would appear on a traditional Greek stage. The translation was new, written for the production itself, by Timberlake Wertenbaker (which is just such an excellent name!).

First, I really liked the translation. I have not read Sophocles in the original except for a snippet of the Antigone back in high school, so I cannot comment first hand on the veracity of the translation. However, it seemed like a reasonable translation to me, from reading another version in English. Better yet, a lot of the passionate statements were untranslated, or spoken in Greek and then translated subsequently. I thought this had a wonderful effect of highlighting the characters' emotions, as well as providing a greater sense to a modern audience of the Greek tragic ethos. My one qualm is that the pronunciation was not very good. To be sure, I am not the best person to judge pronunciation (see my recent blogpost), but this pronunciation was not significantly better than mine (which is terrible).

Second, they started the play with a cello. This I thought was an interesting touch. The cellist played throughout the performance, setting the mood for various scenes as well as providing some jarring and foreign-sounding interludes, which may or may not have been in any way close to Ancient Greek music. Either way, it worked very well to preserve the tone of the play and I thought it was a nice touch.

Third, I thought the acting was phenomenal. Annie Purcell (Electra) and Pamala Reed (Clytemnestra) were a strong and brilliant pair. The mother daughter relationship was fabulous and I thought the interpretation between the actors, director, and translator did a nice job balancing the two sides. I also was impressed that Manoel Felciano made Orestes' character believable-- something which I did not find to be the case in the translation I read. Olympia Dukakis was also phenomenal.
Sophocles II: Ajax, The Women of Trachis, Electra & Philoctetes (The Complete Greek Tragedies) (Vol 9)

The one odd thing about the play was the choice of costumes. I was kind of apathetic toward them. They were generally soft, draping fabric, which alluded to the drapery of classical Greek statues, but they were modern. This was interesting but neither particularly clever nor particularly off-putting.

In general, I thought it was a great performance of a fabulous play, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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