Bacchae | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Bacchae, Half Cocked Productions, at the Space. If Greek myth had any foundation in fact, Thebes must have had an unusually bad run of kings. Pentheus was the last in this hubristic gallery: indignant at his countrywomen for neglecting their homes to cavort with a lascivious deity (who just might be his own illegitimate cousin), the straitlaced city father prohibits the consumption of wine, ignores the warnings of his advisers, and generally behaves like a tin-pot tyrant ripe for comeuppance at the hands of the angry female rebels--who happen to include his own mother.

But then a stranger appears, allegedly representing the women's priapic leader. Dressed in this production like a chorus boy from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he dispenses pop wisdom that might have come from the same source ("Today is the first day of the rest of your life"). And from that moment adapter-director Arik Martin's Half Cocked production collapses into fuzzy metaphors, ingenuous theology, and hippie-trippy camp.

Too bad, since the show initially promises an enjoyable low-tech interpretation of Euripides' classic tragedy, with a breezily colloquial text, WB-rated orgiastic adagios, and full-bodied Beckettian performances, most notably from Tim Gittings as the repressed king and Gary Sugarman as a refreshingly robust Tiresias. But young artists often underestimate their material--and their audience's intelligence. And in this case those miscalculations make for a disappointing finish to what might have been a commendable effort.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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