Electra | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Electra, European Repertory Company. Jean Giraudoux's rarely revived drama picks up where European Rep's long-running production of Steven Berkoff's Agamemnon leaves off. Berkoff depicts Clytemnestra's vengeful murder of her husband Agamemnon; Giraudoux's wittily ironic 1937 play, suggested by Euripides' tragedy, recounts the punishment wrought on Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus by Electra and Orestes, her children by Agamemnon. But where Dale Goulding's staging of Agamemnon is a visceral exercise in physical theater, in Electra Goulding keeps movement to a minimum. The actors often deliver their lines (from Frank Houser's adaptation) standing still and looking directly at the audience while debating the conflict between exposing past crimes and preserving present order--a theme as timely as today's headlines.

This visually static Electra has riveting moments thanks to its lead actors. Carolyn Hoerdemann's Clytemnestra is a figure of haunted elegance, denying her daughter's accusations until her hatred for her husband bursts out in tones of steely precision. Eve Moennig's Electra and Stephen Davis's Orestes, their burning eyes highlighted by heavily made-up, jagged eyebrows, are a pair of coiled snakes--fierce and threatening to others, tender yet brutish with each other as they consummate their incestuous love in almost ritual fashion. Best of all is Richard Frederick, a young actor of superb physical and vocal technique, as the beggar who foretells disaster in the cunning, severe tones of a madman. Adding this production as a companion to Agamemnon, the European Repertory Company worthily lives up to its name. --Albert Williams

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