An interdisciplinary production of Euripides' 'The Bakkhai'
The word “interdisciplinary” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to various artistic projects in New Orleans, but the production of The Bakkhai on June 12 & 13 at 8 p.m. at the Marigny Opera House means it in every sense of the word.
The tragedy of The Bakkhai, written by Euripides sometime between 408-406 B.C.E., tells the story of the god Dionysus, who, with a cult of worshippers, returns to his birthplace to seek revenge on those who have denied his divinity. The god of nature, wine, and ecstasy drives the women of the city to the mountains where they engage in salacious ritual festivities. A young King Pentheus, who sees this hedonism and freedom of spirit as the destruction of law-and-order in his state, seeks to suppress it.
With a new translation by New Orleans artists Elizabeth Gross and Ned Moore, the already richly layered play comes to life, as actors Evan Spigelman and Jesse LaVercombe perform their lines alongside a vivacious chorus, whose dancing, orations, and ferocious energy carries The Bakkhai forward. Chorus leader and dance facilitator Ann Glaviano’s original choreography reflects the anarchic themes of the play.
The production of the The Bakkhai is further advanced by the addition of a new musical score by local composer Tucker Fuller. While Fuller’s works tend to lean toward the neoclassical style, for this production, however, the composer has written a rhythmic score that perfectly complements the players’ indulgence in sensual pleasures and their terrifying return to nature. Soprano Mary Townsend offers a powerful performance singing in Greek alongside a two-piece ensemble.
Gross and Moore’s production of The Bakkhai embraces the themes of disorder, celebration, fanaticism, and the law of nature. The tragedy looks at nature as both a constructive and destructive force, and audiences will find themselves simultaneously mesmerized and repulsed by this duality. At first glance, the raw ambition of this project and the coordination of artists involved would suggest disorder, but all the talented artists’ devotion to the production is its greatest strength. The Bakkhai is a tremendous accomplishment and is not to be missed.
The Bakkhai is June 12 & 13 at the Marigny Opera House. Both productions begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased at either Brown Paper Tickets or at the door. For more information, visit The Bakkhai’s official webpage.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]