Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ismene, 2011

I saw the opening of Ismene tonight at Dream Theatre, put on as part of the Ismene Project, in which 8 theatre companies in 3 countries all produced this play starting today.

The purpose of the project is to raise money for breast cancer support organizations. A main theme of the play is the idea that you do not need to succumb to prophesy - that you should insist on living your own life as you choose.
Based on a new chapter in the stories of lesser-known heroines in Greek Theater and Mythology, Ismene is the tale of a young woman who is sent away to a School for Arktoi (unruly children) in the wake of great tragedy. Fate comes knocking in the form of a deadly Chorus, and Ismene is trapped inside the school with four other fierce women. Will they fight their fate or give in to their tragedies once and for all?
I first saw this play some years ago. I had forgotten so much, and it has been rewritten a bit, but it retains its primal power, with lots to engage your emotions and your mind.

You might think that people no longer live their lives according to prophecies about their fates, but I think, in a way, many still do. They are told by others how their lives must go, and often these prophecies are not good. They are told they are stupid. They are told they are losers. And they live out these prophecies. Unnecessarily.

The cast is stunning. Jeremy Menekseoglu as Te, the weird messenger, is hypnotically fascinating. Anna Menekseoglu, is a complicated and sympathetic Ismene, haunted by her family's endless tragedies, but determined to live her life her way. Mishelle Apalategui, Annelise Lawson, Alicia Reese, and Rachel Martindale, the other residents of the School for Arktoi, are all strong performers who stand out sharply as individuals. This is not a short play, but you leave wishing you knew more about these roundly imagined characters.

The show begins, by the way, before the show begins, with Chad Shreveland and Natalie Breitmeyer artfully engaging your attention in the lobby. It may seem like the merest nonsense at first, but it ends up providing some serious foreshadowing.

Don't fall prey to others' grim predictions.
Wave them off and live your convictions.

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