Going wild with the Greeks

Deborah Hirsch

Orgy anyone?

Maybe not for the audience, but the wild women possessed by Dionysus, the Greek god of chaos and celebration, certainly are taking freedom to extremes in Wave Productions’ winter mainstage, Euripedes’ “The Bacchae.” Through moments of drunken, reckless abandon, the Greek tragedy offers a vivid example of the danger that results when humans and gods push the boundaries of structure or chaos too far.

“The underlying statement of the entire play is probably that any freedom can be too much freedom and any situation that could be perceived as freedom could be complete mind control, like a cult,” said Speech sophomore Teal Brown, who plays one of the Bacchae women, the revelers of Dionysus.

Director Maureen Towey, Speech senior, produced a script for the play by combining seven translations and an adaptation by Charles Mee. Since the original end to the play is lost, Towey said it was even more appealing to put the show together from various interpretations. To make the play more accessible to a modern audience, Towey said she tried to “streamline it and distill it to its most essential elements.”Another goal was to involve the audience by having the actors address them directly during the odes.

“I wanted to tap into something that was a deeper level of emotion that people hadn’t experienced,” she said.

At the start of the play, Dionysus visits his home town of Thebes, where the royalty has stopped revering him as a god. As a punishment, he sends the village women, including the queen and princesses, raving mad into the mountains. King Pentheus attempts to capture Dionysus and rescue his worshippers but is continually eluded.

Despite testimonies from his villagers, Pentheus, played by Speech senior Egan Reich, does not believe Dionysus is really a god. To find out for himself, Pentheus agrees to be disguised as a woman in order to spy on the Bacchae during their private rituals. Tipped off by Dionysus, played by Speech senior Ron Fulgencio Taylor, the women capture the impostor. Later, Dionysus releases the women from his spell and they realize what permanent damage they have caused in their primal, animalistic state.

“These women are liberated and it seems so wonderful, they’re breaking free of all these constraints society puts on them, but they need a compromise,” said Laura Savia, the show’s publicity director and a Speech sophomore.

All of the design elements of the show are based on the idea of classical structure breaking down, Towey said. More than 25 students on the production team contributed to the construction of a run-down palace set and colorful costumes to contrast with classical music and traditional chorus text.

Before learning lines, the 13 cast members went through two weeks of mask and movement training with the help of choreographer and recent NU graduate Mandi Michalski. The masks, created by Speech senior Julie Benner, represent Dionysus’ control over the Bacchae women.

“Sometimes the masks can almost put them in a second state, it almost gets extreme,” Towey said. “We’ve had some really intense experiences along the way.”

And the cast members have worked to communicate these emotions to their audience throughout the performance.

“It’s a really exciting play because it just builds and builds,” Brown said. “It’s so real for the audience and so present and timeless.” nyou