The idea for this new adaptation of six Greek plays of the classical period was conceived some months before the events of September 11th, 2001, but those events unexpectedly confirmed the resonance of these plays in today’s violence ridden and revenge prone world.
This version goes back to the original Greek texts of works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, translating and adapting them to create a single-evening work that pulls together all the parts of the legend that deal with King Agamemnon and his three daughters - Iphigeneia, Elektra, and Chrysothemis - and combining them into one seamless narrative.
It starts with a human sacrifice.
Helen, the most beautiful woman in Greece, has abandoned her husband and sailed off with Paris, an exotic prince from the eastern city of Troy. The Greeks have formed a grand alliance to bring Helen home. But the Greek campaign is a failure before it begins. The Greek fleet sits idly on the coast of Grece for lack of a wind to fill its sails.
Agamemnon, supreme commander of the Greek forces, is persuaded by a seer who claims to have clairvoyant powers that the only way he can get a following wind is to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigeneia, to the goddess Artemis. He sends for her, on the pretext that she is going to be married to the Greek hero Achilles,
As the play opens Agamemnon is in torment. He is in the act of reversing his decision, but he is too late - Iphigeneia has already arrived at Aulis with her mother, Klytaimestra, innocently prepared for a wedding, little knowing that she is coming to her death.
Does Iphigeneia really die at the moment of sacrifice? Not everyone who witnesses it is sure. According to those who were there something miraculous happens at the last minute.
But her mother, Klytaimestra, dismisses this report as a fairy tale, intended to assuage her grief. She is sure her husband is a murderer and when Agamemnon returns victorious from Troy, she takes her revenge, displaying his bloodied corpse to a horrified populace and proclaiming herself supreme ruler of the land. This revenge in turn produces more intrigue.
One of Agamemnon’s surviving daughters, Elektra, smuggles his young son, Orestes, out of the reach of Klytaimestra. When he grows to manhood Orestes returns secretly and conspires with Elektra to assassinate his mother and her lover.
Now Orestes in his turn is doomed - doomed by the spirits of Blood Revenge, the Furies, who invade his being and condemn him to episodes of terrifying visions and fits of madness.
The final act takes place in Tauris, the bleak region on the shores of the Black Sea, ruled by a fierce bandit chieftain. Here a totemic object is venerated — an image of the goddess Artemis, the same goddess who required Iphigeneia's death at the start of the war. Human sacrifices, captured Greek sailors, are made to the image, and the priestess in charge of the ceremonies is none other than Iphigeneia, miraculously spared by the goddess herself at the time of the sacrifice.
Into this gruesome and bizarre scene comes Orestes, sent there by the god Apollo, to whom he has turned for relief of his agony. According to Apollo, his only hope is to steal and bring back to Greece the image.
But his mission is doomed before it begins. He is captured and prepared for sacrifice by his own sister, who, of course, does not recognize him.
How he escapes, and how Iphigeneia manages to outwit the bloodthirsty ruler of Tauris, contrives a hair-raising escape from his clutches, and sails back to Greece with her brother makes up the gripping climax of this story.
"What a magical journey!... The accessibility, the ease with which the language is made fresh and relevant, extends to every aspect of the production.” Baltimore Sun [For complete coverage of earlier versions go to Press »]