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So here we are, the “other” has infiltrated our city and brought a bunch of screaming banshees with him. Unlucky, or lucky, for you, we don’t really get to witness any of the much-talked-about depravity of these women or their god. Mostly we hear about it in testimonies from different witnesses. The audience becomes the jury. We are the ones sitting in judgment as the tale of Dionysus seeking revenge for the wrongs he feels his family has done against him unfolds. Think of how much we rely on second and third-hand accounts to help us understand what’s really happening in a war or a conflict.
This is a pretty loaded text in the 21st century, to say the least. And it requires real guts on the part of all involved in order to make it work. It’s the kind of show that ought to hold no prisoners, everyone should be eviscerated. Unfortunately, this production just didn’t get there—too often it felt like hokey bombast instead of a drama with real implications.
Joanne Akalaitis is a much reputed director who has done great work in her career, but this show is not her best. It’s not helped by the fact that the acting is generally weak. The primary problem is likely in the casting of Dionysus. He is, after all, a god not only of pleasure, but also of vengeance and chaos—like a bottle of wine or a dose of drugs, he can turn from a pleasant diversion into a destructive force rather quickly. Dionysus has to drip sex and sin and temptation and murder. The soft, T-shirt and jeans-clad Jonathan Groff, better known for his role in Spring Awakening
, just looks young and overblown. Not the kind of guy that everyone would want to fuck at the same time that we’re afraid he might eat us alive.
Another odd acting choice is the fact that Agave and the Messenger both speak with hints of a British accent. Seriously? From what I gather Joan Macintosh (Agave) is from New Jersey and Rocco Sisto (the Messenger) was born in Italy and has played in a couple episodes of The Sopranos
. Those accents are a silly put-on. Are we still in a place where we think that imitating Brits makes theater legit? It’s a lame choice. Watching people gesture and emote in grandiose ways when the story is so real and contemporary just makes the whole thing seem laughable when it should be disturbing.