by Karen D'Souza
The San Jose Mercury News,
published June 27, 2001
Tragedy Made Human in Berkeley
production as powerful and primal as the myths that inspired it.
By Karen D'Souza
The Shotgun Players
have scored a bull's eye with ''Iphigenia in Aulis.''
The ambitious Berkeley ensemble strikes at the beating heart of Euripides'
tragedy, dispersing the mists of pretension that often hang over this
ancient text. Director Patrick Dooley and his ensemble have set up camp
an august stone amphitheater at John Hinkel Park that cries out for
sort of epic ritual.
A sense of community was the soul of drama for the Greeks, for whom
theater was a sacred place where society came together to sort out its
issues. That's the primal aesthetic Dooley has taken a stab at and come
triumphant. He's hit on a production as raw and bold as the myths that
Actress Mary Eaton
Fairfield delivers a powerhouse performance as the
ill-fated Clytemnestra, the queen of the doomed house of Atreus. It
who brings her daughter Iphigenia (Amaya Alonso Hallifax) to Troy, believing
her to be wed to Achilles. Alas, the gods have already spoken, and Agamemnon
(Jeff Elam) has decided to slit his child's throat rather than risk
Fairfield and Elam
stop the show in a pulse-pounding scene when Clytemnestra
and Agamemnon go head to head over who rules their decaying family.
actors conquer the unwieldy language of the play and portray their
characters as people, not archetypal figures.
Everyone but the
main three characters wears a mask (designed by Michael
Frassinelli). This primitive bit of stagecraft allows Elam to go from
Agamemnon to Achilles in the blink of an eye. The real transformation
on the inside, of course.
As Agamemnon, Elam
comes across as weary and resigned, a regal man chained
by duty and fate. As Achilles, he's a macho glory hound with no doubts
no weaknesses (that he knows of).
try to wrap Achilles around her finger is a sight to
behold. Both Fairfield and Elam wring every last drop of passion from
scene. Their unwavering commitment to each moment is what drives this
elemental production. If some of the supporting players don't quite
their subtlety, it hardly matters.
The director works
magic with meager set pieces (a few gauzy drapes) and
props (large wooden poles are about all). His vision of the chorus is
straightforward but no less potent for its simplicity. The choral body
emerges as four women in masks who keen and chant as the story churns
grisly conclusion, which in turn sets off the cycle of violence that
Instead of bathing
the stage in special effects, Dooley spotlights the human
elements of the show, how the choices we make affect the world around
the end, that's what these blood-soaked tales were to the Greeks, parables
about the nature of man. Cannibalism, incest and infanticide; that's