“A lot with a little” encapsulates 4615 Theatre Company’s jewel-box production of Sophocles’ Electra. British dynamo Nick Payne’s clean, contemporary translation of the classical revenge-and-reunion drama is a perfect fit for director Stevie Zimmerman’s approach. A few subtle lighting cues, judicious use of a Mediterranean percussion soundtrack, and a small platform with a basin of water embedded – rarely does a production manage to achieve professional-level quality with such bare expense.
Credit Zimmerman’s light hand, as well as the economical artistry of designers Jordan Friend, Kristina Martin, and Nathaniel Sharer. The only thing that might make you notice the thriftiness while the show is going on is the somewhat tacky fake-stone paint job on the set pieces. Elsewise, you’ll only be engaged by the flow of well-written words, spoken honestly by capable actors.
Leading the charge is Niamh O’Connor as Electra, tormented by the image of her mother murdering her father and the subsequent exile of her brother; her royal family’s complex backstory, for those who forget to Wikipedia it beforehand, is neatly and quickly conveyed in the play’s opening minutes.
O’Connor, with her rich voice (sort of like a Cate Blanchett minus the accent) hits the right note of dramatic power as she contemplates revenge, neither too plain and modern nor too scenery-chewing. A newcomer to DC, she is sure to be seen all over local stages soon; you can catch her here and stake your “I saw her before everyone else did” claim.
closes November 4, 2017
Details and tickets
Electra is accompanied by the Chorus (Mackenzie Larsen), who, as rendered here, comes across less like the common peoples’ representative that is typical of Greek drama, and more like Electra’s shadow or conscience. They move together (in unpretentious choreography by Paige Washington) and occasionally Larsen sings, beautifully, expressing what mere words cannot.
Those words, in Payne’s translation, are a velvety bed of emotional detail. The value of this production – for those familiar or unfamiliar with the myth – is in the moment-to-moment feeling, as Electra moves through confrontations with her mother (Lolita Marie), sister (Jacqueline Chenault), brother (Patrick Joy), and brother’s guardian (Charlie Cook). Zimmerman does not stretch her cast to reach for major catharsis, and no one strains their voice crying to the heavens. The production does not take sides or attempt to make awkward political metaphors. It’s just thoughtful words, a simple situation, and honest acting.
If, therefore, the play draws more appreciation than anything, it’s worthy appreciation for how deceptively easy the ensemble makes it all look. Small missteps like that splotchy paintjob or one scene that’s a little too slack do stick out amidst such smooth action, but ultimately only serve to contrast the perfection and professionalism of the rest. This Electra won’t electrify you or move your spirit, but it’s never not a pleasure to witness talented artists working a timeless drama.
Note: This reviewer ran late and missed the first scene. (There is construction in the area. Allow extra time to arrive.) Due to the familiarity of the story, access to the script, and the general clarity of the production, the director kindly permitted me to review.
Electra by Sophocles, adapted by Nick Payne . Directed by Stevie Zimmerman . Featuring Jacqueline Chenault, Charlie Cook, Patrick Joy, Mackenzie Larsen, Lolita Marie, Niamh O’Connor . Costume Design: Kristina Martin . Lighting/Sound Design and Music: Jordan Friend . Scenic Design: Nathaniel Sharer & Jordan Friend . Choreography: Paige Washngton . Stage Manager: Sarah Magno . Produced by 4615 Theatre Company . Reviewed by Brett Steven Abelman.