Orestes 3.0: Inferno
"Playwright Charles L. Mee has surpassed himself in this world premiere created especially for Santa Monica's premier avant-garde company, the City Garage, inaugurating their new and highly felicitous space at the Bergamont Art Complex.Mee simultaneously makes each case and reveals its flaws, scrupulously avoiding judgment. The common thread is that we make principles out of our perceptions of self-interest, and above all, we preserve the capacity for denial that ensures we never recognize our own responsibility.
The most original of all the creations is Mee's Helen (Katrina Nelson), modeled on familiar stereotypes of the Westside trophy wife yet executed with such perfect pitch she becomes unerringly fresh. Appalling, obtuse, self-absorbed yet oddly frank, even honest, Nelson's brilliant turn conveys both acute irony and deep embodiment of character. She's not merely a cliché, nor a pop culture reference. She's a vivid axiom who cannot (and will not) be dismissed, enabled by breathtakingly witty couture.
All of Mee's intellectually stimulating myriad of arguments could not take life without the animation of Frédérique Michel's continuously inventive direction. The corps is superbly drilled, and the pace furiously drives us from one lucid speech to another. Anachronisms and modern references may abound, yet they never seem to be forced signifiers, always enlightening the point. For once the Furies in a modern realization genuinely integrate into the narrative.
Mee never lapses into the glib, even as his speakers may. His vision of human subterfuge is comprehensive in its many variations. He calls for us to examine our lives in productive ways. It is a forthright and courageous challenge, and while there is no way to gauge if this play has a life in the future, it indubitably speaks with force and cogency to the way we live now in this very moment. This has to be one of the highest callings for the theater."
Myron Meisel, Hollywood Reporter
"The House of Atreus looks good on leather. Leather couches that is -- part of the seating at T1, the Bergamot Station Arts Center and new home of City Garage. The company's inaugural production, the skin-flashing, free-associative "Orestes 3.0: Inferno" suits this funky black box space. Playwright Charles L. Mee has made a career out of tweaking the Greeks, and this world premiere is a mash-up of two of his plays. Director Frédérique Michel's visually striking result plays something like sampling. Orestes (an intense Johanny Paulino) faces trial for killing his mother, Clytemnestra. Helen of Troy (Katrina Nelson), the Kato Kaelin of the pageant, shows up in swimwear and platform sandals, while Electra (Megan Kim) anxiously twirls en pointe. Apollo hosts this media circus like a Valley dude in boardshorts, but he can't match the mojo of Menelaus (Daryl Keith Roach), who delivers a rockin' cover of the Bo Diddley salvo "I'm a Man." (Justin Bardales performs the onstage music.).Michel stages one of the year's most startling tableaux: A son tenderly covering his naked, beautiful and very dead mother. That image is worth Mee's thousands of words."
-Charlotte Stoudt, LA Times
"A work of passion, intelligence, and mischief.Mee and Michel collaborate with graceful eclecticism as they seek to bring a modern sensibility to this ancient tragedy; employing music, dance, and a mélange of performance styles.Michel directs her actors with evident authority and imagination.It's clever, fresh, and feels inspired."
- Samuel Bernstein, Stage and Cinema
"Chuck Mee is not your typical playwright[He] is not playing the same old game. And more than idle words, he stands by them as a writer. You can experience not only this ethos but also the wonderful 'pillaging' in his new play Orestes 3.0:Inferno, receiving its world premiere at City Garage. As the title suggests, the play takes as it's jumping off point the tale of Orestes. Back from the Trojan War, Orestes has killed his mother Clytemnestra and now with his sister Electra must stand trial. But describing simple plot is to miss the point of Mr. Mee's work. His plays are less about story arcs and more about assemblage and collage. He culls texts the way an artist might find the magic in a "found object." Take the first lines spoken by Helen of Troy, who appears in the City Garage production in a ruby red pin-up bathing suit and sunglasses. She announces, "First of all, I cleanse my skin with products that cleanse but don't dry, products that are natural." Could there be any more perfect introduction to the face that launched 1,000 ships?
Now contained in these lines is both the genius and the challenge of Mr. Mee's plays. Because he juxtaposes the classical rhythms of Euripides with the pedestrian beats of found text, the audience and the actors have to make tremendous leaps. In one instant you are in a Greek tribunal. In the next, an actor is confessing his erotic secrets. When it works it's thrilling. When it doesn't it feels a bit like channel surfing. Go . . . but know that you'll have to do the work of making sense of it all, which, when you think about it, is really Chuck Mee's point."
- Anthony Byrnes, KCRW
Award winning playwright Charles L. Mee creates a stunning new take on the Orestes myth for director Frédérique Michel and the company at City Garage. Euripides's ancient Greek tragedy of crime piled on crimeparricide, matricide, incestis redrawn in the hauntingly familiar terms of our contemporary world: political paralysis, purposeless wars, random acts of meaningless violence.
Orestes, having been driven mad by the Furieshere, three leather-clad sexual sirensstands trial with his sister Electra, his lover, in front of the citizens of Argos for the murder of their mother, the betrayer Clytemnestra. Menelaus, their Uncle, and a political blow-hard with ambitions of his own, is too cowardly to intervene. Sentenced to death, Orestes and Electra turn kidnapping terrorists and try to kill Helen, who disappears by magic. Apollo, the god of disguise and subterfuge, is toying with them all: these humans are his amusements; their ambitions are absurd; their end is only emptiness and death.
Greek tragedy meets edgy contemporary thought in this bold and original new work.
Directed by Frédérique Michel
Produced by Charles Duncombe
Cast: Justin Bardales, Mitchell Colley, Nathan Dana, Justin Davanzo, Erol Dolen, Megan Kim, Samantha Geraci-Yee, Leah Harf, Katrina Nelson, Mariko Oka, Johanny Paulino, Megan Penn, Bo Roberts
Adult language; nudity.
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|