A powerful Greek tragedy is reduced to rubble in a puzzling and off-putting Off-Broadway production of Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Aulis” at Classic Stage Company.
The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides (to say nothing of the comedies of Aristophanes) are rarely seen in New York. And when they are, the results can be, well, tragic (I’m thinking of a 2009 Shakespeare in the Park production of “The Bacchae”).
“Iphigenia in Aulis” delves into a well-known story line from Greek mythology. The Greek army commander Agamemnon (Rob Campbell) contemplates whether to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia (Kristen Sieh) to the gods so that they will provide the wind to allow his ships to sail to Troy.
Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra (Amber Gray), who brought Iphigenia along only because she was under the belief that Iphigenia was to be wed to the warrior Achilles (also played by Campbell), is less than thrilled to learn of daughter’s impending doom.
Despite a straightforward translation by experimental playwright Anne Washburn (“Mr. Burns”), the production is overthrown by the oddball theatrics of director Rachel Chavkin (“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”).
Three actors play multiple roles with mixed results. Campbell lacks authority as Agamemnon, and his broad, tough guy take on Achilles is embarrassing. On the other hand, Sieh makes for a fierce Iphigenia, especially when the character decides to embrace her sad fate, believing that it will bring her posthumous fame.
Most confounding is the portrayal of the Greek chorus (which, by convention, comments upon the plot) by seven actors who sport ridiculous outfits and flower-decked headgear, move around feverishly and chant to an indie-rock beat.
But hope remains for Greek theater aficionados: Ivo van Hove’s staging of Sophocles’ “Antigone” starring Juliette Binoche opens this week at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
If you go: “Iphigenia in Aulis” plays through Sept. 27 at Classic Stage Company. classicstage.org.