College Try

Electra is a good classical choice, but it's a one-note performance

Not so the men. Robert Strain plays the role of Aegisthus, the new husband of Clytemnestra, almost casually, without developing a regal stature. Strain doesn't have the carriage and resonance of a king or a power-hungry, conspiring murderer. Likewise both David Mann and Wayne E. Robinson give performances that are not particularly arresting.

Michelle Cumming's set design tries to take on too much of the emotional burden of the play. Instead of letting the stage be a canvas on which the action and emotions can evolve organically through the actors, the huge, brown, craggy rocks that are strewn about obstruct the play's emotional resonance. The main character and her dramatic situation are sufficiently dark without them. One starts to sense an Emily Brontë-Wuthering Heights creepiness sink in that's too imposing for such a small venue. One of the most compelling things about Morgan's Electra is that she is almost as much creature as she is creation. The visceral grief has returned Electra to the primordial soup of existence. She roams around in rags, touching the sand and rocks around her with the carnal appetite of a cave dweller. To have her thrashing about and mired on a stage that looks like a prehistoric dwelling is hyperbolic and distracting.

De Acha has formed an interesting partnership with experimental sound artist Gustavo Matamoros. Matamoros's organic combination of the musical saw, the rubbing of glass, and various tones of bells lends an earthy yet otherworldly feel to the play. His subtle control of sound keeps the effects from dictating the emotions of the play or the shifts in tone. The result is both mysterious and compelling. This mixture of the classical and the experimental is an encouraging reminder to South Florida artists and performing-arts groups of the abundance that can be reaped from cross-genre collaborations.

In this performance we feel Electra's pain -- maybe too much
In this performance we feel Electra's pain -- maybe too much

Details

A tragedy by Sophocles, adapted by Frank McGuinness. Through May 6. 305-443-5909.
New Theatre, 65 Almeria Ave, Coral Gables

Luckily de Acha's commitment to educating audiences is as strong as his commitment to reviving the classics. Why pretend theatergoers remember this stuff from college? The play's program is equipped with biographies, a synopsis, and a genealogy chart, and several performances have been accompanied by discussions with local scholars. After more than a decade at the tiny storefront venue in Coral Gables, which seats 75, New Theatre will move to a facility that will increase its current size by 50 percent at the old Astor Art Cinema, also in Coral Gables. Although this production of Electra has its flaws, it still manages to leave audiences hungry to see what jewels New Theatre will unearth in the future.

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