'Ajax' a Gory, Intense Gem

The cast and crew of Ajax made admirable use of the small, cramped Kronauer Space this weekend. Spectators were crowded onto benches and many had to sit on the floor, but the fine acting and directing made up for the deficiencies in the space. In fact, the up-close-and-personal seating arrangement increased the impact of the gore, violence and emotion found in this modern adaptation of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy.

Darkness and crackly music introduced the play. A large bronze shield on the back wall and a yellow curtain hung to the side served as the only set elements. The minimalism of the props provided well-considered contrast to the complexity of the drama. The play also made unique use of audio-visual technology, presenting the suicide of Ajax as a televised clip. The TV’s blurry, black-and-white image made the suicide scene creepier and more powerful than it would have been had it been acted out on stage.

The theatre’s intimacy could induce myopia in the viewer: from my seat on the floor, it was a challenge during the first act to capture the production’s full effect whenever more than three characters appeared onstage. Fortunately, the second act moved to the back of the theater, where the added seating and space provided adequate distance. In the end, the play managed to be believable without being claustrophobically close to its audience.

Kate Davis exhibited a strong command of the stage as the vengeful goddess Athena; so did Andres X. Lopez, explosive and powerful in the title role. Aoife E. Spillane-Hinks ’06 contributed a convincing and heartfelt Tekmessa, adding an emotional richness and color that the play couldn’t have done without. Matthew Roop-Kharasch’s Teukros was solidly acted and sensitive in its attention to the rest of the cast. Director Brian R. Fairley ’05 put in delightfully sleazy and callous appearances as Menelaos and Agamemnon, providing necessary comic contrast in the midst of the intense melodrama. Kudos, too, to the visually and aurally interesting chorus work of Veronica T. Golin ’07 and Susan C. Merenda ’07. Indeed, the entire cast’s willingness to take their acting to the physical level was extremely commendable. Currun Singh ’07, as Odysseus, seemed bland and unexciting early on, but lost some of his hesitancy in the second act.

Overall, congratulations to director Fairley for a fabulously rich production that pushed its limits without becoming overdone. The space obstacles presented by the Kronauer were not easy to overcome, but the staff’s excellent judgment resulted in a gripping, well-constructed show with a perfect sense of rhythm and timing. Packed with action and intensity, Ajax was a true gem.

—Crimson Arts Critic Mildred M. Yuan can be reached at