Amanda Scot Ellis in Good Company's Electra in a One-Piece. Photo by Sam Hough.
BOTTOM LINE: Electra in a One-Piece is an enthralling adaptation from the Greek Electra story, with brilliant performances and a stellar script.
Going to see an equity showcase in Alphabet City can conjure hope, dread, or the need for a taxi; the expectation is of a fringy show in a basement theatre that more resembles a cave or boiler room than a performance space. The set will likely comprise of a couple of black chairs and costumes will probably be designed by H&M. With these assumptions in mind, I can confidently say you will be pleasantly surprised by Electra in a One-Piece.
Electra in a One-Piece is a very contemporary adaptation of the Greek drama Electra. In this version, when Elle (Amanda Scot Ellis) witnesses her mother killing her father and his mistress, she gets it on video and uploads it to YouTube. To counteract the bad press, her mother Clyt (Erika Rolfsrud) makes her own video defending her actions. Meanwhile Elle’s brother Ore (Chris Bannow) is serving overseas in the military and has to find a way home to avenge his father's death. Each character gets caught up in his or her means so that their ends change. Electra becomes enthralled by her newfound celebrity and television ambition, Clyt fancies herself a defender of women, and Ore is entangled in an unexpected and complicated love.
The show is inspiringly well done, with a gorgeous, functional set, rich, clean lighting, and top-notch sound design. The construct of the play incorporates projections and videos as well as hilarious puppetry using posters of teen heartthrobs hanging on Elle’s wall.
Isaac Oliver’s script is witty and biting, but also poignant and peppered with poetic speeches. Electra in a One-Piece doesn’t just retell the Electra story. Oliver takes Electra’s tale as raw material and from there grows his own story with his own conflicts, concerns, and themes. Within the absurdist tone, reality bends to allow insights into these characters. In a family pitted against one another over murder and betrayal, empathy is made possible for all the characters with insightful writing and tender acting.
The performances in are breathtaking. Bannow’s conflicted Ore throbs with raw emotion. Ellis manages the tricky role of Elle with grace; she wallows without whining, wants without imposing, and maintains honesty and humor. Rolfsrud leads the gifted cast with her portrayal of the murderous, emotionally-stunted, and misused Clyt with a clarity, control, and commitment that glitters like cut glass. It’s a breathtaking performance, and the show concludes with a rending final scene between the familial trio in which Rolfsrud gifts the audience with one of the best speeches delivered on a New York stage this year. This final speech is a true artistic cinergy between writer and actress, and I could watch Rolfsrud deliver those lines all night.
Electra in a One-Piece is very much in the style of Nicky Silver or Mark Schultz. It’s Fat Men in Skirts meets Everything Will Be Different while remaining its own sharp, satirical entity. This is a MUST SEE.
(The Good Company’s production of Isaac Oliver’s Electra in a One-Piece runs through November 14, 2010 at The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd Street, between Avenues A and B. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $18 and available at ovationtix.com or by calling 866.811.4111.)