IPH at Brava Misses the Mark

“IPH…” : Lyrical adaptation of Euripides’ Greek tragedy Iphigeneia at Aulis by by playwright Colin Teevan and directed by Dylan Russell. Brava Theater, 2781 24th St (at York), San Francisco, CA. 415-647-2822 or visit www.brava.org or www.African-AmericanShakes.org. U.S. Premiere September 25 – October 16, 2010 Agamemnon (r. L. Peter Callender) explains to Iphigeneia (c. Traci Tolmaire) and Klytaimnestra (l. C. Kelly Wright) why he has made the decision to sacrifice his daughter.


Recently at another play opening, a noted local reviewer mentioned that he would avoid seeing IPH… since he was not enamored of Greek tragedy and the location of Brava Theater in a family neighborhood made parking almost impossible. He really should reconsider since even with its flaws it is an opportunity to see Greek tragedy brought into the 21st century with projected visuals, a sexy quartet of beauties doing duty as the Greek Chorus and a mostly excellent cast.

It is a combined season opening production of San Francisco’s Brava Theater and African-American Shakespeare Company and they have made a daring choice to present this U.S. premiere of Colin Teevan’s imaginative/lyrical/dark adaptation of Euripides’ Iphigeneia at Aulis. IPH… pronounced “If”, is as cogent today as it was in 400 B.C. with a fine line between egocentric power and ultimate sacrifice to win a war.

Paris of Troy has stolen Helen, wife of Menelaus the King of Sparta. General Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, in the name of brotherly love has vowed to destroy Troy and return Helen. On the eve of an all out attack by sea the flotilla of ships is becalmed. The gods have advised Agamemnon that he will be victorious only if he sacrifices Iphigenia his beautiful daughter by Klytaimnestra. He devises a ruse to bring Iphigeneia back to Greece by offering her as wife to Achilleus. When Klytaimnestra and Iphigeneia learn of his treachery the climatic struggle between the mortals and the will of their gods ensues. How far would one go to assure peace in our time? Agamemnon bellows, “I am not an animal!” Klytaimnestra counters with “Your political position is your only concern.”

L. Peter Callender (Agamemnon ) enters the stage as a powerful man in torment and never varies from that demeanor and inexplicably remains passive when he murders his daughter even as his wife vows to see him dead. C. Kelly Wright as Klytaimnestra in verbal battle with Agamemnon is histrionic in her conveyance of grief never displaying strength needed for the confrontation. Lovely Traci Tolmaire’s regal bearing as Iph and her understated acceptance of her impending death gives a beautiful speech “If I could sing like Orpheus. . . I would sing to all the stones. . . please do not kill me.”

There is a great deal of humor, intended or not that seems anachronistic. Achilleus (Luke Taylor) is portrayed as an egotistical buffoon and after a series of projected images of him prancing about on the huge projection screen; he enters the stage with a single bounce (think Superman). The stage is extremely utilitarian with two ramps, one is huge bisecting the stage diagonally with the projection screen covering the rear wall. During monologs by Callender, Wright and Tolmaire their images are projected on the huge screen. . . a device that is used to great advantage in the recent road show of Dreamgirls.

The quartet playing the Greek chorus who sing in acappella the premonitions and commentary on the stage action (Lisa Tarrer Lacy, Marilet Martinez, Sarita Ocon, Natalia Duong) could easily do backup for the Dreamgirls. Running time about 90 minutes. Please note that the unusual spellings of the Greek names are as printed in the program.

Kedar K. Adour,

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com