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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Electra’s Deathless Tragedy

Theatre Gigante’s ancient tale of revenge

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This month, Milwaukee theater veterans Isabelle Kralj and Mark Anderson stage an adaptation of the ancient Greek legend of Electra in their Theatre Gigante production. It's a tale of revenge that has echoed throughout history in innumerable ways over the past couple of millennia. Someone's father has been murdered. Someone burns for revenge.

The someone in question is Electra as portrayed by seasoned actress Isabelle Kralj. There's a simple tirelessness about her—an emotional inertia that contrasts against much of the rest of the action of the production. Craig Menteer has a similar gravitas about him as her nemesis.

Much of the drama plays out in symbolic choreography. The chorus consists of dancers scrambling in often-graceful arcs across the stage. The dance theater that breathes through much of the action of the story occasionally manages strikingly idiosyncratic beauty. Jessie Mae Scibek glides through an elegantly executed death scene. Earlier, Megan Kaminsky sees the unfortunate residue of a murder and weeping turns to laughing in a dazzlingly dramatic moment. Joe Fransee lends a performance with a powerful, high-density dramatic dynamic. He's up there in character in a way that feels a bit like watching Michelangelo's Statue of David play out ancient tragedy up close and personal. Edwin Olvera brings a sinewy acrobatic muscle to the stage to balance out the more physically aggressive end of the energy.

As complex as revenge dynamics can feel in ancient Greek tragedy, they're ever more complicated and convoluted in the current age. It's refreshing to see revenge played out with simple graceful movements and the presence of a blade. The blood of death is a red cloth draped over the fallen. Simple.

Theatre Gigante's Electra runs through May 18 at UW-Milwaukee's Kenilworth Studio 508, 925 E. Kenilworth Place. For tickets, call 414-229-4308 or visit uwm.edu/psoa/.