the furies/land of the dead/helter skelter (Neil LaBute) Greenwich Theatre 23 February

***

Enigmatic image from http://www.offwestend.com

The theatre was about a third full–the usual echt provincial audience I remember from 917 years ago, together with a few students–and a guy came out to tell us to switch our mobiles off, not to take pictures, and what the plays were.

***Spoilers ahead!***

So first up was the furies, set in a very glassy restaurant, where Barry (Patrick Driver: middle-aged) had summoned Jimmy (Stuart Laing: young) to tell him something.  The airheaded Jimmie had brought his evil sister Jamie (Frances Gray: young too of course) with him, she kept on whispering in his ear–she was suffering from polyps on her vocal cords–whenever he seemed to be sympathetic towards Barry’s news that he was dying of some dread disease (not AIDS) and ending their relationship so as not to be a burden and going back to California for palliative treatment.  At the end Jamie rasped at him that if he did not die as described she would track him down, torture him horribly, and kill his children and slut of a wife.

Well, that was funny at the beginning and about as terrifying as the UCL Eumenides at the end.

Then there was land of the dead, where Woman (Gray)  and Man (Laing) stood in separate spotlights and addressed the audience, not each other.  The story was that on a particular day she had got up early to count her $400 and then he had gone to a work-related breakfast and then to the office and had tried to ring her on her mobile and say she could keep the kid if she wanted but she had turned her mobile off and had the abortion and in fact paid with her Diners Club card and not the cash.  Then the particular day was 9/11 and all she had to remember him by was the message on her mobile, that she had to refresh every week or so.  I thought this was the best of the three pieces, in spite of the cheap 9/11 reference and O. Henry neatness:  the $400 in bills (especially) and the mobile phone message were genuinely troubling images, like the net in Agamemnon, and this was also the piece that caught some tiny fragment of the essence of  Greek tragedy even without referring to it.

After the interval we had helter skelter, back in the glassy restaurant, where Man (Driver) and Woman (Gray: pregnant) had come to NY from the sticks to do some Christmas shopping.  She was wearing an old-fashioned dress he hadn’t noticed in the hotel that morning and he certainly didn’t want her to get her hands on her mobile and find out who he had been ringing.  At this stage, I thought that perhaps Chekhov (rather than Stephen King or O. Henry) was being laid under contribution, and as it turned out I was both wrong and right.

As it turned out, She had seen Him kissing & fondling Her Own Sister on the steps of the sister’s house, and wanted to know how long it had been going on.  It had been going on 6 years, and he indulged in some specious drivel about how they should put this behind them and become richer people as a result.  Then She said she never wanted to be alone with Him again–drivelled a bit about bad things happening to other people–mentioned Medea and Charles Manson’s followers–said she had in fact bought the dress from a consignment store, He hadn’t missed it in the morning–stabbed herself in the belly (and her baby) with a meat knife.

And this one I didn’t like very much.  She was much younger than Him, which I think was just the actors–it was never mentioned in the script.  There was some serious problem with Her reactions after He had said 6 years–she didn’t scream and shout as you would in real life, but also she responded too quickly and naturally to what she said to be dissociated from reality.

Once Medea had been mentioned I started to wonder how, since the robe could hardly be poisoned and anyway She was wearing it not the sister.  And it was the knife that had been there in plain view all the time–both Chekhov and Euripides.

Unfortunately it’s a complete disaster to take Greek tragedy as something naturalistic that can be translated to a domestic setting but, hey, shit happens…

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