Review: NWU’s ‘Iphigenia’ lacks nuance; still fun to watch

2010-09-23T23:45:00Z Review: NWU’s ‘Iphigenia’ lacks nuance; still fun to watchBy OLIVE BUCKLIN / For the Lincoln Journal Star

O, the promises we mortals make! Say you're living in the Helenic Age and you find yourself fulfilling a promise to sacrifice something you love for the good of something else. Like going to war or upsetting the virgin goddess of the wilderness, or both.

In "Iphigenia," a play by Irish playwright Edna O'Brien adapted from Euripides (481-406 B.C.), and performed by Nebraska Wesleyan University students, we go back in time to the imagination of the ancient Greeks. The complex but streamlined play was directed by Professor Jay Scott Chipman.

King Agamenon (Justin Hauke) has made an abominable promise to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia (Chloe Petit), to appease the gods so that his army can sail to war against Troy. The slaying also will guarantee the return of the unfaithful wife, Helen, of Troy, to her husband, Agamenon's brother Menelaus, well played by Steven Labedz.

The moral dilemma of a human sacrifice to please fussy, recalcitrant and vindictive gods and goddesses is debated by Agamenon, his wife, Clymenestra (Cherie Ronhovde), the prophet Calchas (Zach Ireland-Splittgerber), a protector of Clymenestra (Derek Jeck), Achilles (Jarrett Thomas), a Sorceress (Karlene Grinberg), and poor Iphigenia herself. The goddess Artemis (Holly Hunter) and a messenger (Richard Eisloeffel) also make brief appearances.

O'Brien added the character of the Sorceress to personify the random evil and amorality of our times. Euripides questioned the prestige of the state and ancient injunction, she thought, and the questions of whether to go to war or not -- and between truth and ambition -- are eerily relevant to our times.

The grinding inevitability of the play and the mannered dramatization wore a bit thin.

Wesleyan's Studio Theatre is a tough space in which to block action. Risers don't compensate for a dropped ceiling, and floor jacks have no business in the middle of a stage.

Though the actors recited a swift, gorgeous script, there was little nuance and gravitas. Nevertheless, it was fun to see, and there are moments when you will be left on creepy, eternal cliffhangers.

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