Presented by Oberon New Works Series, Komoi Collective and Tubiforce Media Productions
Translated by T.A. Buckley
Script treatment by Steve Dooner
Directed by Steve Dooner and Jen Kenneally
Musical direction by Adam Brooks
Dramaturg – Mike Nuell
Review by Kitty Drexel
**This show is for adults. There is artful nudity and general sexiness. The naked body is a beautiful thing but parents tend to freak out when their kids see one. Sex is great. ***
(Cambridge) As a tot, I remember asking my Mom about the god Dionysus (I was reading The Odyssey and was confused by his role). She told me simply that he was the god of liquids like wine… and semen. She continued that he liked to have a good time and preferred his ladies on the wild side. My understanding of mythology has never been the same.
To wit, Euripides’ The Bacchae is the story of how life got flipped, turned upside down when Dionysus (Gene Dante) became the god of a town called Thebes. Long story short, Zeus impregnated Semele, killed her with lightning and then gestated their son Dionysus in his “thigh.” Semele’s family assumed she got knocked-up illegitimately and refused to believe that Dionysus was a god. Tiresias (Eric Dwinnells) the oracle tries to warn them but the idiots don’t listen*. This is when all Hell breaks loose. Dionysus drives all the Theban ladies crazypants. They throw an epic party in the mountains and trash the town. Only King Pentheus (Brandon Homer) has the balls to question their antics (lame). It does not end well for anyone – except for Dionysus who finally receives the recognition he deserves. Along the way there’s some cross-dressing, nudity and a tiny bit of bondage.
Komoi Collective and Tubiforce Media Productions’ The Bacchae is an immersive, interactive theatre experience. It entails “in your face” dancing, drumming, screaming and fighting. There is no 4th wall. Enjoyment of this production is incumbent upon participation in the performance. Watching The Bacchae without succumbing to its revelries is like watching friends experiencing the drug of their choice; you can’t enjoy it if you are outside of it. This will shock/scare some theatre-goers who are accustomed to safely watching theatre without cast interaction; this production is not for them. This show is for the rest of us and it’s a trip.
The scenes with the “Barbarian women” and Maenads are high-energy and stimulating like an orgie without the sex. The women use all of the levels and floor area in the scenes that play out Dionysus’ domination of Thebes. Although their mic-ing needs tweaking, the female ensemble dominates Oberon and eventually the audience.
As their leader, Gene Dante, oozes sex and power. Like Dr. Frankenfurter meets Hedwig meets a longhorn, his presence in Oberon is captivating. He makes heavy eye make up and a crimped wig from The Grudge look divine. He’s not the kind of deity you’d take home to Momma but you’d certainly try to take him home anyway. It’s no wonder the Thebans went bonkers.
The men are more conservative with their energy. Dwinnells, Homer and Nicholas Paradiso (Messenger #1) give great performances. The other men of the cast have good stage presence but need to triple the energy in their line deliveries.
Louis C.K. has a bit about the Girls Gone Wild franchise. It goes, “when girls go wild, they show their tits. When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub.” If classical mythology or world history is any indication, he’s not wrong. Although Euripides’ tragedy is a work of fiction, the potential for murderous ruin and orgasmic revelry lie dormant within us all. The Bacchae is the perfect opportunity to dig deep (or not so deep), let go and celebrate the fervent spirit within.
*You’d think that the Greeks would know better when approximately 75% of their folklore is a collection of unhappy reactions to Zeus sticking his man parts where they don’t belong.