Electra in a One-Piece
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
October 29, 2010
Isaac Oliver's new comedy Electra in a One-Piece answers the question that theatre theoreticians have been pondering for some time: what would happen if a video of Clytemnestra murdering Agamemnon went viral on YouTube?
This devastatingly funny piece, performed with conviction by a cast of eight, takes the great legend of the House of Atreus and drops it down in Connecticut, circa 2010. Clyt has murdered her husband, Non, and his secretary girlfriend, by drowning them in the family swimming pool, and then chopped them up and buried them in the backyard. All this has been caught on tape by their virginal daughter Elle, who posts it on YouTube for her brother, Ore, a soldier in Iraq, to see.
Of course, it becomes a sensation. Soon, Clyt starts posting her own videos to counter Elle's. What of Ore? Well, he and one of his soldier buddies come up with a surefire way of getting discharged from the army, involving a video or two of their own.
And that's just Act One. Act Two, an extreme detour from the original source material, finds Elle under the wing of a hotshot network executive who has plans to make her life the next hit show. In the process, she begins to discover her own sexuality and sensuality, via all of the comments on her videos.
For a world premiere, Oliver's script shows a great deal of promise. Perhaps it's 20 minutes too long. Perhaps not all of the jokes go over as well as they could, but when they do, the laughter is sometimes violent. The ending, a slight left turn from where lovers of Greek tragedy are expecting it to go, is messy and confused, especially when dealing with Elle. Yet the sheer originality, which begins as soon as the lights go down with a Greek chorus made up of talking Jude Law, Zac Efron, and Justin Timberlake posters, makes up for certain things that the production lacks.
Director David Ruttura (who serves as the artistic director of Good Company, the new theatre company that's producing this show) has assembled a pitch-perfect cast that is completely in tune with Oliver's style. Particularly noteworthy are Erika Rolfsrud, captivating as Clyt, the hilarious Austin Mitchell as Thus, her far younger, pool boy lover, and Amanda Scot Ellis, who makes an impressive post-college New York debut as Elle, who spends the entire show in a one-piece bathing suit (and that theatre is freezing).
This was my first experience with Oliver's work, though he has a number of writing credits to his name. I look forward to seeing what's next. I hope it's as original.