Presented by and at La MaMa E.T.C.(Annex Theater), 74A East 4th St., NYC, April 27 to May 13
Ellen Stewart, La Mama's guardian angel, has staged an extraordinary version of Aeschylus' "Seven Against Thebes." Under her direction, The Great Jones Repertory Company (one of La Mama's resident companies) has turned this Greek classic into a piece they call a "dance-opera."
Dance-opera is a proper term for a show that tells the Oedipus legend through music, dance, and spectacle. "Thebes" begins with the blinding of Oedipus and moves on to the later years and the next generation, with the sibling battles and the fall of the house of Cadmus.
Whether it is the haunting music of Elizabeth Swados, the late Genji Ito, and Michael Sirotta, or the striking imagery of Jun Maeda's sets, David Adams' lights and props, Valois Mickens and Madeline Anita Slovenz-Low's masks, Federico Restrepo's puppets, and Selcuk Gurisik and Eiko Yamaguchi's costumes, it all comes together to create a sense of the Great Mystery. It is awesome, overpowering. One feels as if one were part of the very religious rites of the ancient Greek festivals where "Thebes" and other classics were once performed.
The large open arena of La Mama's Annex Theatre is flanked by platforms at either end, with audience seated on one side. One is constantly assaulted by startling images like the giant hand of God, a flying Pegasus, a ladder that reaches to the heavens, a blind and terrifying Tiresias who hobbles on stage. But it is the fight scenes themselves, involving an ensemble of 14 performers (out of the cast of 22), which brings the piece to fever pitch. In one-on-one contests, the players turn acrobatics and dance into life-death struggles.
No matter that this dance-opera is rendered in the ancient Greek language. It goes beyond mere words with larger-than-life truths expressed through its art forms. Indeed a theatrical experience of monumental proportions.