Circus Theatricals enters the next phase in a notable evolution with the advent of its newly built 42-seat space, finished only two days before the opening night of member Colette Freedman's adaptation of one of the most demanding Greek dramas. The theatre is distinctly austere and pristine, the production is ambitious, and the results show the possibilities of what is to come for the troupe in its own home once the growing pains get worked out.
Freedman's adaptation puts its actors in modern-day battle fatigues without updating Euripides' tale, easily suggesting that politics today are equally as complex and thorny-and morally reprehensible-as they were in 400 B.C. As Agamemnon (Thomas Kopache) wails, "It's often man's own greed that brings him to ruin," there's instant recognition for what we face in our current world situation. Jack Stehlin directs with simplicity and authority, creating startling stage pictures with the use of his three-person chorus placed dramatically on an upstage ledge, once a window of the renovated historical building. Stehlin's efforts are strikingly accentuated by Kitty Rose's elegant black, red, and rust costuming and set designs, featuring one omnipresent pup tent and minimal outdoor furniture to suggest Agamemnon's camp at the edge of the battle for Troy.
The company is deeply committed to the work, with particular nods to John Ross Clark as Menelaus and Jerry Goble as Achilles for not letting the epic quality of the piece overpower their performances. In general, however, what this talented ensemble needs to do next is conquer the intimacy of its new space, which makes some of the performance choices here too broad, too overwrought, too loud for the modest playing area. Presenting the classics on such a diminutive stage is always daunting-and tends to accentuate the distraction caused by small details, such as a shiny turquoise satin thong peeking above the waistline of one of the earthy chorus members' flowing peasant skirts. Yes, it's a new era for Circus Theatricals, one it will settle into in no time.
Presented by and at Circus Theatricals Studio Theatre at The Hayworth, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Apr. 15-May 20. (323) 960-1054. www.circustheatricals.com.