Anne Washburn's Orestes, A Tragic Romp at the Folger Theatre
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The last date listed for Orestes, A Tragic Romp was Sunday March 7, 2010 / 7:00pm.
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History, myth and a contemporary wit are frequent bedfellows in Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy's work. A celebrated and award-winning poet, writer and playwright, Duffy has won the T.S. Eliot Prize and a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, among others, and was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in 2009, the first woman to hold the position. Her collections of poetry include The Bees, Rapture and Jubilee Lines. For this appearance, she'll read selections from her own work and from her favorite works by others. Learn More
Reviews & Ratings
Featured review from Goldstar Member
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"A Tragic Romp" is an apt description of this energetic, well-acted play. Hadn't been to the Folger in many years, and had forgotten how nice it is to see a play in the small, intimate setting. The play is accessible, seems current even if written 2400 years ago, and the chorus was wonderful.
Aaron Posner (Arcadia, Macbeth, Measure for Measure) returns to the Folger to direct this co-production with Two River Theater Company.
Helen Hayes Award nominee Jay Sullivan plays the title role of Orestes. Electra, Orestes’ sister, is played by Helen Hayes Award winner Holly Twyford, who is often on the Folger stage and most recently appeared in Folger Theatre’s production of Arcadia, also directed by Posner. Chris Genebach provides a virtuoso turn in four different roles, including Helen of Troy and Menelaus. The production also features a five-member female chorus singing original music composed by Obie Award winner James Sugg.
Washburn describes the original play as “a peculiar
work—harrowing, funny, ironic, and deeply metatheatrical—a playful, reckless, and terribly clever experimentation with genre.” Expanding further, she says the play is “unlike any other Greek work we have: an antic tragedy, a tragic romp.”
“Love alters the beloved, and Orestes, A Tragic Romp is not entirely the play that Euripides wrote,” Washburn notes. “It’s always a translation in spirit, and word by word, line by line, the vast majority of it hews extremely close to the original. My aim in working on this play is not to adjust it to my own interests but to bring it to life, as best I can, with every complexity intact. In doing so, I have allowed myself liberties and equivalencies. I’ve teased out some of the backstory, which may not be as present to modern day Americans as it was to ancient Athenians; I’ve cut some allusions which are too elusive to be currently engaging; and here and there I have, yes, amused myself. I’ve brought myself fully to this process and am in the play, for sure, but probably not where you’d expect a contemporary author to be. Most everything that is ironic, bouncy, grave, bizarrely fresh, and relentlessly modern about the play is Euripides.”
Director Aaron Posner said he was “about four lines into Anne Washburn’s wonderful translation/adaptation of Orestes” when he knew he wanted to direct it. “There was something in the tone, the energy, and the smart irony of the language that I found compelling and challenging in all the right ways,” Posner said.
Janet Griffin, artistic producer of Folger Theatre, was also interested in Orestes, A Tragic Romp because of the clever way the play marries the old and the new, presenting a Greek classic in a contemporary voice. “Orestes, with its central young, tragic figure is also a very appropriate lead in to Hamlet, the final production of our season,” Griffin added.
As the play begins, Orestes and his sister Electra await judgment from the City after murdering their mother, Clytemnestra. With Electra’s assistance, Orestes killed Clytemnestra to avenge the death of their father, Agamemnon, whom Clytemnestra killed shortly after he returned from the Trojan War. Orestes, A Tragic Romp raises important issues that are as relevant now as when Euripides first penned his original play: fate vs. freewill, coming to terms with our own mortality, the search for justice in an unjust world.
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