When: Feb. 25-28 2009
The bare stats suggest a grim, high-minded slog. We're dealing with Eugene O'Neill's 78-year-old Freudian trilogy based on the Oresteia, done entirely in Dutch (with English supertitles) by Amsterdam's Toneelgroep in a production lasting about 30 minutes longer than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And yes, there's both a grimness in the torments suffered by the Mannon family of Civil War-era New England, and a slog for a non-Dutch-speaking American trying to keep up with the projected dialogue while all hell's breaking loose onstage. But highmindedness? Unfolding amid anachronistic laptops and videos, this deconstruction by director Ivo van Hove goes for silly shtick, reductive caricature, and rough sex as much as deep thoughts. It even burlesques the script at times, framing it as soap opera. And yet the show also ends up exposing that script's depths. Wisely calculating that no post-Simpsons audience will be able to take O'Neill's angst-fraught, quaintly psychoanalytic epic on its original terms, van Hove undermines all that's mannered in Mourning Becomes Electra while preserving and renewing the play's profound core: the insight that families hand down trauma, pain, pathology, and vengeance as surely as they hand down DNA. Part of the Goodman Theatre's ongoing O'Neill festival, A Global Exploration: Eugene O'Neill in the 21st Century.