Together, Sisters of Semele and The Bacchae chronicle the familiar drama between feuding cousins Dionysus and Pentheus and their mothers Agave and Semele, respectively. In Sisters of Semele, we watch as jealous mortal sisters Agave and Ino deal with their mortal sister Semele who has been impregnated by Zeus. The prequel, written by Chris Rivera, is a play about jealousy and deceit. It sets the scene and helps clarify any character confusion and backstory you may have in The Bacchae, but it’s not entirely necessary for the flow of the evening. By the time The Bacchae arrives, the action shifts a few decades where the battle of morals is flowing as Dionysus seeks vengeance on his cousin, the King of Thebes. Translated by Paul Roche, The Bacchae is a raucous party with a Greek twist of doom and gloom.
|photo by Joseph Sebring|
You almost have to wonder if the company had gone rogue once rehearsals had finished. There were some stand out performances, including the Marshall Taylor Thomas as the strong and solid Zeus in Sisters of Semele and the captivating Rhiannon Lattimer as Agave, who steals the show with her late Act II monologue. Even Jonathan Emerson as the rock star Dionysus had his moments of magnitude. But then comes Pentheus. Chris Rivera’s Pentheus was like a cartoon Bond villain. He thinks he has all the power but hides behind the muscle of his militia. It was an interesting character choice. And it played into the juxtaposition once he is brainwashed by Dionysus. That being said, when he did don the women’s clothing, Pentheus had no vulnerability, something that felt unnatural for the story arc. It was interesting to see him feel comfort in the clothing, but it was a bold thesis that had not been justified anywhere else in the production. Additionally, Rivera lacked complete connection with his scene partners, living in his own little bubble, and relied heavily on big expressions. The Bacchant Chorus lived in their own individual worlds as well, often appearing as the main source of going rogue. Without a set vocabulary from Sheehan, the ensemble just did their own thing which, at times, was drastically different from their neighbor.
To pinpoint the woes from a production perspective would call out the lack of cleanliness between the lights and sound. But these moments were minimal in comparison to the piece as a whole. There was certainly ambition present in this production but the execution was sadly off kilter.