Orestes 2.5

Rated 3.0 There’s so much going on in Orestes 2.5 that audience members will be forgiven if they get a little dizzy at times.Ann Tracy has adapted Charles Mee’s Orestes 2.0, itself a multi-source collage based in turn on ancient Greek myth, among other things. Tracy bills the piece as “a fragment of the classic tragicomedy in the modern world of soap opera and media influences.”

That mouthful decodes into courtroom sequences on video, a reference to the Kennedys, also projected images of the burning towers of the World Trade Center—a contemporary image that’s already assumed mythical power in many ways. Vengeance, and justification for vengeance, followed by the need for more vengeance, comes into play again and again, as do references to dysfunctional families.

Other transformations include Cassandra appearing as some sort of mental patient wearing a nightie and sitting in a wheelchair—the hospital orderlies (who double as the Furies) give her an injection to calm her down any time her warnings get too agitated.

And we get Helen as an overdressed, self-obsessed socialite who calculates each move.

There’s an interesting pair of wounded soldiers who comment on the action from time to time, and later get into a routine about a pubic hair on a can of soda that invokes the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill episode. Just exactly how this ties in with the story of Orestes wasn’t entirely clear to me, but Tracy clearly seeks to amplify the question of gender roles in both ancient and modern times.

Orestes is played by John Pellman, who brings a spooky atmosphere of twitchiness to the role. Khimmberly Maarshall plays Orestes’ sister Electra, gentler but unsettling in her own way.

The production bristles with interesting elements—I liked the exaggerated eyebrows and physical stance of the Furies, the hanging white fabric that transforms the interior of California Stage into a sort of cloud landscape, and the show’s attitude. Even if Orestes 2.5 suffers from a bit of kitchen-sink excess (as in, “They threw in everything, including the kitchen sink”), those who enjoy a brainy, irreverent approach to serious ideas will find plenty to sustain their interest and engage their minds.