‘The Pretties’ at Glass Mind Theatre

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The Pretties, written by Ann Turiano, and directed by Lynn Morton, is a retelling of Aeschylus’ ancient trilogy, The Oresteia. The Oresteia tells the story of Orestes and his quest to avenge his murdered father, King Agamemnon, and The Pretties tells the same story, but with a twist. In Turiano’s retelling, the women of The Oresteia finally have voices, and mortals, goddesses, and ghosts use them to give us a front seat to the cycle of violence and retribution.

Siblings reunited: Orestes (Sam Hayder) and Electra (Erin Boots). Photo by  Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
Siblings reunited: Orestes (Sam Hayder) and Electra (Erin Boots). Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.

The concept of justice is at the core of The Pretties and discussion of it is front and center during most of the action. The king killed his daughter and the queen killed him, and now her other children wish to kill her. But is any of that justice? When is the need for retribution deserved? When does it simply become one more cog in the machine of violence? The play is rife with this and other themes: morality, the meaning of life, the powers and frailty of love, grief, judgment, cycles of toxic behavior and the need to break free of them. All these ideas are conveyed with a light touch, though. Always present, always purposeful, but never undermining the action or distracting from the story. The Pretties manages to make you think without being a lecture.

The venue of Glass Mind Theatre is small, allowing for a very intimate performance. The seats are lined against two walls, facing each other and creating a wide aisle for the actors to move around in. In one corner Michelle Datz’s clever set of stairs and platforms, painted white and draped here and there with shear white curtains. The lack of color makes Chris Allen’s lighting very dramatic (Allen also designed the effective sound). The props by Jessica Ruth Baker, Jesse Herche, Lynn Morton, and Anna Platis. are well made, as are Anna Platis’ costumes. Jessica Ruth Baker is the busy stage manager and production designer.

The Pretties is full of complex characters and incredible acting. V Lee plays Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon and his killer, who mourns her actions but does not regret them.

Paris Brown is terrific as Iphigenia, the innocent and unwitting catalyst, and Erin Boots is a capricious version of the goddess Artemis and the grief-maddened Elektra.

Andrea Bush is darkly funny as the Watchman and Sam Hayder plays a vulnerable and sympathetic Orestes, full of doubts about his supposed destiny, wanting to do the right thing but unsure of what it is.

The imposing and doomed king, Agamemnon, is played by Dana Woodson. Katherine Vary is Aegisthus, Clytemnestra’s co-conspirator and Agamemnon’s cousin, and as the goddess Athena, she has a forceful and commanding presence.

Standing out among an amazing cast, Ren Pepitone as the oracle, Cassandra, is particularly mesmerizing. Her pain, frustration, and anger are tangible, and when she speaks, you can’t help but hinge on her every word. Equally fascinating and funny, are the Furies, goddesses of vengeance who follow Clytemnestra and torment Orestes, played by Trustina Fafa Sabah and Sarah Weissman.

Iphigenia (Paris Brown, floor) and Agamemnon (Dana Woodson, back) while The Chorus (l-r, front to back ): Trustina Fafa Sabah, Sarah Weissman, Ren Pepitone, Katharine Vary, and Andrea Bush) recalls Agamemnon’s fateful trip to the woods. Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
Iphigenia (Paris Brown, floor) and Agamemnon (Dana Woodson, back) while The Chorus (l-r, front to back ): Trustina Fafa Sabah, Sarah Weissman, Ren Pepitone, Katharine Vary, and Andrea Bush) recalls Agamemnon’s fateful trip to the woods. Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.

There’s a small bit of audience participation near the end of the play, that forces the audience to think about what they’ve seen. It’s a little disconcerting to be put on the spot, even in such a small way, but in the words of Director Lynn Morton, “Discomfort isn’t necessarily a negative quality.” Indeed it isn’t. Those moments of discomfort are incredibly powerful, bringing home the consequences of all that’s happened on stage.

And in the end, more than anything else, The Pretties is a play about consequences; the consequences we expect, the ones we don’t, how we seek to avoid them, and how we learn to live with them.

Aegistus (Katharine Vary) tries to reach Clytemnestra (V Lee). Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
Aegistus (Katharine Vary) tries to reach Clytemnestra (V Lee). Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.

Jessica Ruth Baker was stage manager and production designer. Jesse Herche was production manager. Anna Platis designed the costumes.  Samantha Trionfo designed the make-up, and the props were designed and made by Jessica Ruth Baker, Jesse Herche, Lynn Morton, and Anna Platis.

Running Time: Approximately One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission..

The Pretties plays through August 23, 2015 at Glass Mind Theatre – 1511 Guilford Avenue, #B303, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1549.gif