CLEMENTINE IN THE LOWER 9 a study in survival at TheatreWorks

(Upper l-r front): Jayne Deely, Laiona Michelle, Jack Koenig, and Matt Jones. Photo credit: Tracy Martin (Lower l-r) Jack Koenig as "Jaffy," Laiona Michelle as his wife "Clementine," and their son Matt Jones as "Reginald" in the World Premiere of CLEMENTINE IN THE LOWER 9 at TheatreWorks.

CLEMENTINE IN THE LOWER 9: A Blues Riff on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. New Post-Katrina Drama by Dan Dietz and music by Justin Ellington, who will also be the Musical Director . Directed by Leah C. Gardiner. TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street (at Mercy), Mountain View, CA. (650) 463-1960 or visit October 5 - 30, 2011

CLEMENTINE IN THE LOWER 9 a study in survival at TheatreWorks

Any playwright fortunate enough to have his play produced by TheatreWorks, is guaranteed a top-notch production. So it was on opening night at the world premiere of Clementine in the Lower 9, that is ostentatiously subtitled A Blues Riff on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. The action takes place in New Orleans Lower 9th section months after Hurricane Katrina has devastated the area. J. B. Wilson’s stunning set that uses every inch of the stage captures the devastation with ramshackle housing replete with holes everywhere and strewn with debris. The atmospheric lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt uses multiple actual lit candles and one hopes the props are fireproof.

The candles are not only actual but symbolic of the joy that Clementine (read Clytemnestra) an African American nurse, harbors for the impending return of long absent trumpet playing husband Jaffy (Agamemnon?) who was sent to Houston in the evacuation after the hurricane. She and educated son Reginald ( ? Orestes?) are resisting relocation and staunchly putting the place in habitable order. Jaffy returns with a young mute drug addict named Cassy (short for Cassandra?), he claims is a prophet and repeats the one word “Apollo.”

Before the modern day mythic tale unfolds a Greek chorus of one (Kenny Brawner) the leader of the onstage blues band, struts his stuff with a tale of how the gods of Olympus left their lofty perch and took up residence in New Orleans. The reason of course is they became addicted to blues music that is a New Orleans birthmark. He introduces us to the band, drummer Kelly Fasman, Bass Richard Duke, trumpet John Worley and Brawner on the piano. The music is adroitly integrated into the story line and one might wish for more.

With the return of Jaffy (Jack Koenig) and Cassy (Jane Deely) the jealousy of Clementine (Laiona Michelle) flares. Father and son Reginald (Matt Jones) must emotionally/physically reconnect as they actually connect the electricity and water supply. The water plays a pivotal role in the final scenes that is usurped from Aeschylus’ tragedy. Laiona Michelle, Jack Koenig and Matt Jones give bravura performances and Kenny Brawner dominates the stage as Chorus and leader of the blues band. Jayne Deely’s role, that is pivotal to the resolution of tragic (not tragedy) tale is under written requiring her to approximate petit mal seizures, that seem real. But she does get to say the last line imploring Clementine to move on.

Running time two hours and 20 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of