Orestes 2.0 | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Orestes 2.0 

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Orestes 2.0, Gift Theater Company, at the Chopin Theatre. Charles L. Mee's cut-and-paste approach to Greek tragedy has its most successful realization in the 1992 Orestes 2.0. This fever dream of a play blends snippets from Vogue magazine, Soap Opera Digest, interviews with porn star Mai Lin, and works by William Burroughs and Apollinaire (oh, and Euripedes) as it tells the story of Orestes and Electra, who murdered their mother in order to avenge her murder of their father.

An appropriately febrile atmosphere pervades Michael Patrick Thornton's staging. Mee's obvious meditations on the inextricable links between the state-sponsored murder of warfare and the cycle of retribution in the blood-spattered House of Atreus require a fearless presentation, and for the most part Thornton's assured ensemble delivers. Despite the title, it's Electra who's the engine for the show, and Mary Fons plays her with a strung-out, manic desperation. Her opening monologue sets the tone for the whole evening, offering a grim, funny, pathetic portrait of a murderous but badly frightened Lost Girl. Brendan Donaldson's nearly catatonic Orestes provides a suitable counterpoint to Electra's ramblings.

The play sags a bit when Fons isn't onstage, but a quartet of damaged soldiers and trio of sadistic nurses provide sharply defined choral commentary even when it's overlapping. Martin Andrew's inspired scenic design--including a literal bloodbath--gives this nightmare world flashes of gallows humor.


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