Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Theater Review: ‘Iphigenia 2.0’ delivers its message, forgets plot

A military captain prepares to set sail for combat, but first, he must sacrifice his daughter to prove the justness of war to his soldiers. If the word “sacrifice” conjures up thoughts of an ancient polytheistic society, you would not be totally off the mark.

“Iphigenia 2.0,” which is closing next weekend at Next Theatre in Evanston, is exactly what the name implies, a modern retelling of Euripides’ myth “Iphigenia at Aulis.” 

Writer Charles Mee temporally upgrades the story to a present-day Middle Eastern country, presumably Iraq. However, Agamemnon’s (Aaron Todd Douglas) hesitance about the pending sacrifice prompts a lecture by his brother Menelaus (Ricardo Gutierrez), on the challenges of being a true leader.

The definition of a leader and the horrors of war are clearly the main players in this production, not Iphigenia. This is evident from the play’s opening, a monologue by Agamemnon that serves as a state address and meditation on the horrible acts of war that are often deemed necessary only by those removed from the bloodshed. While the thought of modern soldiers requesting a sacrifice from their captain seems illogical, it is not, in fact, so unbelievable. The gripe by some Americans that the president’s children are never sent off to war hits close to home.

The play’s theme of war’s drawbacks continues throughout the production and is staged terrifically by director David Kersnar of Lookingglass Theatre. Kersnar uses physical theater (stepping and stunts) to convey his message. Standout scenes include the soldiers’ recitation of the many desires they have while on active duty and the traits of a capable and effective leader. One of the play’s most powerful moments is a soldier’s monologue about killing the enemy after forcing him to kneel and pray before the triumphant soldier’s god. It makes a powerful statement about the war the United States is currently engaged in and its resemblance to the Crusades of centuries ago.

However, these moments seem totally disconnected from the main plot of the play: the sacrifice of Iphigenia. When Iphigenia does arrive (played almost too childishly by Rebecca Buller), we have almost forgotten she is the titular character of the show. Iphigenia’s only major scene comes at the play’s end when she agrees to her sacrifice, and in essence, becomes immortal like the tale itself.

Save for Clytemnestra’s  desperate attempts to save her daughter’s life (scenes which are near perfect thanks to Laura T. Fisher’s headstrong performance), portions of the play feel random. Many pop culture references and entire characters remain confusing and unexplained: a game of “Dance Dance Revolution,” a step by the soldiers as they sing Kanye West’s “Monster;”  and a local man who addresses the audience in a foreign language.

In short, while “Iphigenia 2.0” uses an interesting combination of stunts, song, stepping and pop culture, the connection between style, message and story is lacking.

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Theater Review: ‘Iphigenia 2.0’ delivers its message, forgets plot