BWW Reviews: ELECTRA - A sizzling Start to Pittsburgh Public Theater's Red Hot Season
Pittsburgh Public Theater kicks off its ‘Red Hot' season this month with Sophocles' ELECTRA, continuing its now-annual tradition of offering new stagings of ancient Greek plays in their seasonal mix. Running now through October 30, this explosive piece effectively kicks off the PPT's 2011-2012 ‘sizzling hot' theme; Artistic Director Ted Pappas' ELECTRA is a mesmerizing 90 minutes filled with adultery, assassination and revenge.
The action occurs on a haunting set made of dark, cold-looking stone slabs that sit in front of foreboding, massive curved walls. The recurring theme of ‘blood' is first hinted at to theater-goers in the ring of blood-red marble finish along these walls, which later illuminate like glowing red embers as the action heats up. These walls are held in place by massive chains hanging from the ceiling, perhaps a metaphor for the grief and profound anguish of Electra, whose sole purpose in life is to find a way to avenge her father's gruesome murder.
Electra's father, Agamemnon, was king of Mycenae, and was brutally murdered by his wife and Electra's mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, who is now king. The deliciously deep-voiced Catherine Eaton emotionally portrays Electra as anguish-filled and hell-bent on avenging her father's death. Unlike her prim and politically correct sister, Chrysothemis (Catherine Gowl), Electra openly and hostilely reviles her mother and the new king, and her ratty garb and matted hair show that she has only one focus - revenge.
This production does not shy away from gore - blood, slicing, slashing, and cutting throats are all openly discussed, as Electra rants incessantly about the "sorrow that has raped her heart". These ghastly details are paired with ominous, booming musical interludes, and tormenting chanting by the chorus of three peasant women (Glynis Bell, Shinnerie Jackson, and Amy Landis) who serve to support and encourage Electra - and who are omnipresent as the story unfolds.
Electra's wish for revenge becomes reality with the tearful return of her long-lost brother, Orestes, portrayed by newcomer Michael Simpson, who is tasked with the bloody act of retribution, and who is fortified by the steely guidance of PPT veteran Edward James Hyland as The Servant. The ensemble works well together to weave this primeval tale into an experience that will mesmerize modern day theater-goers, but Catherine Eaton gives the standout performance in the title role. Most memorable is her impassioned prayer to Zeus, the king of the Gods, as her brother enters the realm of the king and queen to perform the final act of vengeance.
Those who may be unsure whether seeing a Greek tragedy is for them should allay their concerns and experience Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of ELECTRA. ELECTRA performs at O'Reilly Theater, located at 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, now through October 30. Tickets are available online or by calling 412-316-1600.
26 or younger? Tickets only $15.75! Use promo code HOTTIX. Valid ID required. Tickets will be held at Box Office. Not valid on previously purchased tickets or in combination with any other offer.