Opening Nights: Elektra

A suburban Greek tragedy with echoes of other shows.

Macha Monkey either must have identified its hallmark story or fallen into a rut. This reprise of its 2000 show—a satirical retelling of the Sophocles play whose heroine (then Kristina Sutherland, now Erin Stewart) seeks revenge against her gin-pickled, daddy-slaying mommie dearest, Clytemnestra—bears an uncanny resemblance to March's Hearts Are Monsters. There, Stewart played a vengeful, misfit daughter of a gin-pickled, daddy-slaying mommie dearest, too. In between, Sutherland starred in Ghost Light's The Clouds as a likewise narcissistic, gin-pickled mommie with a resentful, misfit daughter. Thematic echoes abound. Directed by Sutherland, this contemporary, suburban Elektra is a rambunctious hour-long sketch-ploration of the House of Atreus ("a real fixer-upper"), seen through the perspectives of neighbors, cops, and newscasters. In addition to portraying Elektra and Clytemnestra, respectively, Stewart and the more commanding Kate Jaeger play all these subsidiary roles in breathless, funny, sometimes confusing vignettes. Reflecting the show's improv-like origins (originally called Live Girls Do Elektra), the yuks matter more than the tragic source material. Robin McCartney's rotating poster backdrops display images vaguely implying place (woods, house, cemetery, etc.). These flipping panels are more effective, though, when perpendicular to the audience like ancient columns. Indeed, this frappé of classical and modern—e.g., Elektra's bizarrely ritualistic spray-painting gestures—lends a bit of Hellenic heft to the otherwise fluffy adaptation (by Sutherland and Desiree Prewitt). The show's supporting characters prove more memorable than its two principals, Elektra and Clytemnestra. Amusing neighbor ladies Susan (Stewart) and Jeannie (Jaeger) recur as tongue-waggers weighing in on the Elektra/Clytemnestra schism, first at the gym, later at the park, where they brawl with almost exactly the same comic, slo-mo combat moves as in Hearts Are Monsters. Even in a revival, these stunts seem too familiar; yet I chortled along with the audience at Macha Monkey's recycled antics. These are guerrilla laugh-extractors whose ends justify their often kitschy means. Measured by that standard, they get there.

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