King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe and HeForShe performed a stark, minimalist rendition of “Electra,” Anne Carson’s translation of the original Greek tragedy written by Sophocles, on Wednesday.
The play, directed by Karinya Ghiara, CC ’19, was performed in Lerner Party Space. The story focuses on Electra, played by India Beer, BC ’20, who awaits the return of her brother—Orestes, played by Daniel Kvoras, GS ’20—after the death of their father, Agamemnon—the former king of Argos. The siblings’ goal is to exact revenge on their mother—Klytaimestra, played by Grace Henning, BC ’20—and her lover—Agisthos, played by Jared Rush, CC ’21—for murdering Agamemnon. Additional cast featured Chrysothemis, portrayed by Oona Mackinnon-Hoban, BC ’21; the Chorus, portrayed by AJ McDougall, CC ’21; and Orestes’ guardian, the Old Man, also portrayed by Rush.
The production makes the most of its few props and open space. With the stage kept adjacent to the staircase leading into Lerner Party Space, “Electra” utilizes this placement well by allowing the stairs to act as entrances and exits to the house of Agamemnon. Additionally, only four props are used in total: a lock of hair, a bouquet of flowers, a knife, and an urn of ashes. Each item serves to accentuate certain emotions in scenes; for instance, Electra fiercely clings to the urn when she believes that the ashes inside are those of her brother.
Given the limited stage production, the play’s success lies almost entirely in the performance quality of the actors. Beer makes a fantastic Electra; her emotions sway violently between action and inaction, reflecting the character’s stark independence while facing the limitations imposed upon her by ancient Greek society. Beer’s constant presence on stage ensures that she is the production’s focal point, capturing the audience with her grief and anger.
Other members of the cast work well with Beer, but never exceed her. In conjunction with the minimal set, McDougall portrays the entire Chorus and is often the only voice offering support and advice for Electra. Henning’s interpretation of Klytaimestra is almost too villainous to be believable, but her confrontation with Electra after news of Orestes’ death is a standout moment. Henning’s character is split between relief that her only enemy is dead and remorse for the apparent loss of her first son. Kvoras, as Orestes, has a sweet reunion with Electra, and it is obvious to the audience that he is moved by her sorrow.
Projection occasionally limited the actors’ performance on stage, and in an effort to be heard by the entire audience, the cast sacrificed range for volume. This issue was especially apparent in the beginning as the actors began to find their rhythm. Additionally, it is somewhat jarring to see Rush play both Agisthos and the Old Man, since his final appearance as a villain occurs with only the slightest change in costume from his earlier role.
“Electra” is a compelling play that depicts a game of power and revenge among women in an era that often suppressed women in positions of power. While not the most extravagant production, Ghiara’s unique approach does justice to the tragic heroes of the Greek legend.