Spotlight: The Flies

Parisian ladies' man Jean-Paul Sartre had plenty on his mind when he adapted the Greek myth of Orestes and Electra for the stage in 1943. His nation had just been occupied by the Nazis, and many of his countrymen were in a state of stunned acquiescence. Bedlam Theatre wades into the recent Twin Cities Greek revival with a distinctive take on this difficult work, staging a visual feast that intermittently connects and frequently drifts. Brad Dahlgaard's thrift-store-classical set and Kristi Ternes's costumes combine for a richly nihilistic effect--the citizens of Argos are depicted as cockroaches, done up in black punk gear and scrabbling on the floor. The show opens with a hilarious high-energy recap of world history according to the Greeks, with castration, copulation, and simulated birth aplenty. From there the energy level is dialed down, though a number of high points emerge. Jon Cole's Zeus steals nearly every scene in which he appears--Cole plays the king of the gods as a capricious, beer-swilling crackpot whose main interest in humanity is to stir up their troubles. By the time Josh Scrimshaw's Orestes appears on the scene, Argos is in the midst of a 15-year bad trip. Maren Ward's Clytemnestra and Leif Jurgensen's Aegisthus have long ago murdered Clytemnestra's husband Agamemnon upon his return from the Trojan War, and they've imposed a culture of guilt and blame on the people. Orestes appears to long-lost sister Electra, played by Sarah Garner, and a plan is hatched to kill their mother and stepfather. Scrimshaw brings energy but a lack of deeper dimensions to his role, and things drag by the end of the first act. Garner, like Cole, lends a pleasing anachronistic edge to her performance, particularly when she tries to convince the populace that those in power are keeping them frightened and oppressed under false pretenses (wait, that reminds me of...oh, never mind). It's ultimately a legitimately original if flawed take on a heady work, and while the rough edges are plentiful, this show rattles around one's head in a weirdly insistent way in the days to come.

 
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