Iphigenia and Other Daughters | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Iphigenia and Other Daughters 

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IPHIGENIA AND OTHER DAUGHTERS, Greasy Joan & Company, at Griffin Theatre. As Jean Anouilh has shown, it takes above-average intelligence to give ancient Greek myth a contemporary sensibility and not end up with cheap shtick. Greasy Joan makes an admirable stab with Ellen McLaughlin's Iphigenia and Other Daughters, a quasi-feminist rehashing of the House of Atreus slaughterfest. Director Brad Shelton casts a savvy spell, finding sad comedy in the spectacle of parents and children stewing in murderous contempt for one another. Electra is portrayed as a quivering, one-note lunatic, but Shelton elicits rich and troubling performances from the rest of his cast. Even in their most debased moments--Clytemnestra indifferent to news of her son's death but despondent over the death of his horse, for example--these characters are pathetic rather than contemptible.

But all this intelligence is in the service of a rather dim-witted script, which states and restates the obvious without creating much dramatic urgency. Rather than write a play, McLaughlin strings together lyrical declarations; her characters mouth philosophy more often than they make meaningful choices. McLaughlin has historical-revisionist pretensions (a curious stance when dealing in myth), but her big insight is that men make history while women sit at home--an idea too cliched and simplistic to support 90 minutes of stage time. --Justin Hayford

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