At Sanders Theatre ending today
The critic hesitates at praising too much, but William Alfred, a Teaching Fellow in English, has written a verse play of great eloquence and force. Pruning the classic legend (known from Eschylus piece) of its less dramatic elements, he has arranged the structure so as to broaden the emotional range, yet keep the action unfolding at a fast, gripping pace. The chorus, used by Eschylus to express moral and descriptive parts, is utilized more effectively by Alfred as individual judges who reveal the events of the war through a trial.
In fact, it is not fair to draw too complete an analogy to Eschylus' work. Mr. Alfred has given the tensions which exist in the Greek tragedy a greater creative and dramatic development.
His verse is lively, flowing, and unusually beautiful at times. The best way to demonstrate Mr. Alfred's fine amalgam of poetry and speech is to quote:"Can't you remember Troy? The men dead in the streets, the flesh of hips forced up by the hard cobbles? Law died with them. . . The image of Troy's order lies decaying in over twenty-thousand dead men's eyes." Sometimes, Mr. Alfred injects humor which heightens the tone of the tragedy; Cassandra says, "Lift that thing off him." "He's naked ma'am." "Is that what you call Greek reason." His transitions from heroic phrasing to the coloquial are smooth and consistent for the most part.
The production, regretably, was not up to the quality of the script. A lack of integration marked first part and in a scene at the palace of Anides, the characters seemed isolated when the drama was at fever pitch. There was also a tendency, most disconcerting in short dialogue, to depend more and more on the script towards the end. Musical accompaniment and a good touch at the end helped to cover up some of the inadequacies.
Of course, trying to produce a reading as a play poses a problem. Scenery and props wouldn't have added much, but more attention to the situation and less on the character as a reader of poetry would have added a necessary polish.
Individual performances were good. Cassandra played by Elizabeth Richards, and Clytemnestra, by Polly Thayer were especially well drawn I thought. Neither laid too much stress on the poetry, as Aegisthus did, or on emotional for de force as Agamemnen tended to do. On the whole, everyone in the cast showed a good on and understanding of their parts.
Because of the nature of Agamemnen one man miss some important facts pertaining to the relationship between the characters. Acquaintence with the legend would definitely aid one to comprehend and enjoy this impressive, original play.