Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Oresteia
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Love's Labor's Lost, The Children and Oslo

Simone Warren, Kelley Curran, and Kelcey Watson
Photo by Scott Suchman
As he ends his 33-year tenure as artistic director of Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company, Michael Kahn has decided to go out big. He is closing his final season by directing Ellen McLaughlin's contemporary adaptation of The Oresteia by Aeschylus, the only extant trilogy from ancient Greece.

The play examines the distinction between vengeance and justice, the roles of mercy and complicity, and the circumstances under which the community rather than only the involved parties can have a say in the process. The production now at Sidney Harman Hall isn't an easy ride, but it's a mesmerizing one.

The story is a version of one of the most familiar Greek tales. Agamemnon (Kelcey Watson), commanding general for the Greeks, must sacrifice his young daughter Iphigenia (Simone Warren) to propitiate the gods so he can lead his fleet to attack Troy. Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra (Kelley Curran) hates her husband's deed and, upon his return 10 years later, takes her vengeance by murdering him. Agamemnon's surviving children, Electra (Rad Pereira) and Orestes (Josiah Bania), continue the cycle, killing their mother to avenge their father's death, but the Furies haunt Orestes over his action. Ultimately, the citizens of Athens hear the case and devise a law-based system of justice that doesn't involve tribal feuds.

Curran is a commanding presence as a woman driven to desperation, Watson presents Agamemnon as a man who sees his action as the only way to achieve his responsibilities, and young Warren is radiant as a personification of innocence with no control over her destiny. Zoë Sophia Garcia blazes as Cassandra, a Trojan prophet Agamemnon brings home as a prize of war, while Pereira and Bania blend righteousness and depression as they attempt to move forward.

Kahn has staged this epic on a simple unit set designed by Susan Hilferty: a plain wooden house with surprising depths within, surrounded by uneven ground where the members of the Chorus (including company legends Franchelle Stewart Dorn and Helen Carey) lurk and comment on the interplay between the family members and the gods they attempt to appease.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Oresteia
April 30th - June 2nd, 2019
By Ellen McLaughlin, freely adapted from the trilogy by Aeschylus
Clytemnestra: Kelley Curran
Iphigenia: Simone Warren
Agamemnon: Kelcey Watson
Cassandra: Zoë Sophia Garcia
Electra: Rad Pereira
Orestes: Josiah Bania
Chorus: Corey Allen, Kati Brazda, Helen Carey, Jonathan Louis Dent, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Alvin Keith, Patrena Murray, Sophia Skiles Directed by Michael Kahn
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or