peteg's blog - noise - theatre - 2014 08 17 AllOurTragic

The Hypocrites: All Our Tragic at the Den Theatre

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11am-11pm-ish. I heard about this from a student I met at a gallery opening hosted by Kai's mate Oli a while back. I was always going to go, but hung out for a cheapie $45 ticket from Goldstar, knowing that I'd regret doing so. To make up for this and earlier transgressions I punted the Hypocrites a $50 donation after the show, which again, I was always going to do. Looking back, I probably should have paid full-fare and let some other cheapskate partake.

Yes, it was most of twelve hours. The premise was that Sean Graney spent quite a while and many forests mashing together the surviving Greek tragedies. I could imagine some maniac at the Cellar attempting this back in the day; I have some memories of The Frogs from the late 1990s. Like the coming David Bowie exhibition, I'm glad I'm in Chicago to experience the actual rather than the imagined. I spent the first half of the show sitting in the front row closest to the door amongst a bunch of incommunicative types, and the second up the back away from the door where I got chatting to Chicagoan Jason, who steered me to Gaper's Block, amongst other things.

The tragedies refracted through mashup are so far from anything canonically mythical that I'm not going to try to untangle it. The tales are linked by the "seven sisters" who are fated to die in order due to a curse on them by the Undertaker-channelling Eurystheus (Maximillian Lapine). The first quarter focusses on Herakles (Walter Briggs), who is somewhat familiar in being likened to a large dog, etc. Medea (Dana Omar) puts in an appearance, not entirely distinct from last week's. I got thinking that it is her passion coupled with her instability that really scares people: either by itself could be understood as harmless, great-man-of-history, psychotic killer, and so forth. The goatman Ægeus is played to a turn by Zeke Sulkes, who would make a brilliant Z-Man in a neo-Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Too bad Ebert's not here to get that going. The odd-job incidentals forming the Greek chorus pleasantly split up the stories. The Trojan war was rushed, frenetic and perhaps adds up to less than a jab at Michael Bay cinema.

This is post-Gen X culture, and they can dance without irony. The tattoos are omnipresent and significant. There was the odd nod back to previous cool, such as some mild continuity humour involving Walter Briggs (outsize star of the show, much of the time, at least when the ladies let him be). Being Americanised, I wondered how they'd square the Greek ethics and permissiveness with Christian thought; suffice it to say that Electra gets a mutilated Lord's Prayer to recite. No gods are invoked (is Zeus even mentioned?), with a bemused Prometheus (Geoff Button) standing in for them all in the first half. Moving to modern dynasties, Jokasta (Christine Stulik) is a sterling Hillary/Chelsea Clinton clone (a photocopy of a phony), and Agamemnon (Walter Briggs again) is perfect as a pitiless, humourless political ladder-climber: the Trojan war was his ticket to ascending to the Kingdom of Athens. Achilles (Luce Metrius) is both black and gay, loud and proud. I prefer Malouf's take on the recovery of Hector's body.

It flags towards the end, unsurprisingly, as the Greek stories themselves dry up on their way home from Troy. Orestes is always trying; the man is built for suffering, but as so keenly observed by Renton in Trainspotting apropos the newly-single Tommy, there is no need to inflict that on us.

The food is uniformly Mediterranean vegetarian. There are breaks every 80 minutes or so. I never queued for the outhouse.

In summary it's like a trip to Lake Wobegone, where all the blokes are erudite and/or ripped, the girls gorgeous, and the stories somewhat unhinged. Zac Thompson at the Chicago Reader. Random guys at Gaper's Block. Do it, just go.