Third Child: Orestes Revisited
nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 11, 2007
[Note: A brief synopsis of the Orestes story can be found here.]
If a little rain can slow down New Yorkers for hours, the seafaring furies of Third Child: Orestes Revisited should stop them in their tracks. The play opens with a tableau of four women menacingly surrounding young actor Morgan Hooper, who plays Orestes. The tension in the theatre is high as the audience sits viewing five actors slowly begin to move.
The first thing the audience notices is the netting on the Furies' costumes. Tactfully designed by Brittany Jones-Pugh, these nets are reminiscent of Clytemnestra's murder weapon as well as the ocean. The enormous impact these women have on Orestes's life is apparent from the opening tableau; they are like the ocean, constantly surrounding him, tossing him from place to place and folding over him. Orestes drowns in his battle between spiritual and earthly duties throughout the play, and as the play nears its end cries out that he does not want his tragedy. In a sense, the tragedy is passed down to the modern audience, who are then left with questions about self, history, and future. The play begins with the repetition of a simple question: "Who was my father?" This question is built upon throughout the play and it becomes clear that the real question is about self-realization. There is a constant force upon Orestes driving him higher to the gods and pushing his feet further into the ground, a basic principle of the Suzuki Method of actor training.
Through the use of the physically demanding Suzuki, the play comes alive with full force and never apologizes for itself. This is a play that engages the audience in a very active way, violently ripping through a tragedy that many people know and leaving us with its aftermath. Although it could not have been planned, the rumble of the subway below and the physical shaking of the theatre reminded the audience that the gods were not pleased with Orestes and added a heightened sense of drama to the world of the play.
The lighting is skillfully crafted, making use of color and shadow to add to the overall eerie world of Third Child: Orestes Revisited. This is theatre that provokes questions about who we are and how much control we have over our own destiny. Director Maria Porter's stage pictures themselves are stunning, particularly the final image of the Furies standing together in a circle of blue light, staring at the audience and challenging us to cross them. An unexpected and delightful treat are the beautiful three- and four-part harmonies sung by Maria Barcia, Athena Colòn, Lesley Scheiber, and Yesenia Tromp, who play the Furies. Whether taken from a church hymnal or an upbeat, modern medley, these songs remind us that this story is both timeless and heartbreaking.
It should be noted that the play is the result of careful collaboration between the actors, director and designers. The movement and text was created in an intensive rehearsal process that utilized the Suzuki Method of actor training as a foundation. Theatre is an inherently collaborative art and the Post Theatre Company insists on it. Third Child: Orestes Revisited is proof that the results of this collaboration are fruitful. This play challenges the mainstream idea of theatrical presentation and thinks outside the box about connecting, in a more animalistic way, to what it is to be human.