glass notes
Bacchae review


Dionysus being born out of Zeus thigh.

I attended Joanne Akalaitis's production of "The Bacchae" on Wednesday night. I had never attended a Shakespeare in the Park event. The Delacorte Theater is a cool little amphitheater in the middle of Central Park.
Since I live in Brooklyn, I figured I'd give myself a good hour to get there by car (my only luxury living in NYC).  I left at 6:30, needing to be there by 7:30 because the tickets are free, and if you're not there by 7:30, they give away your tickets. (Here's a shout out to Mr. Smith who hooked me up.)
So, leaving Brooklyn and needing to get up to 81st street in Manhattan, I realized somewhere around 38th st, 45 minutes into the drive that I probably wasn't going to make it there on time. Incredible traffic, exacerbated by 100 degree heat and no air-conditioning drove me crazy. When the traffic finally broke at 42nd street, I sped up 10th Avenue like one of those lunatic taxi drivers.  One reckless U-turn right in front of the Museum of Natural History and I just made it in time.
Settling into our seats, I took in the beautiful, if overly sweltering summer evening and took a moment to collect myself to prepare for the spectacle.
The play itself, by Euripides, is essentially about Dionysus, who is hanging out in Thebes telling everyone he's a god. Some believe him, including a group of love drunk women (the Bacchae). The conflict comes when the king of Thebes, Pentheus, refuses to recognize Dionysus as a god. He and his family learn the lesson of such a mistake by play's end.
The set had large rafter springing out of the ground (right to left), and a big crack through the middle of the stage with a mote of water around the set.  The Bacchae, sing their entire part and those are the musical highlights. Some of these set pieces by Glass are downright beautiful.  However, the rest of the score is pretty thin underscore though it does has its moments. Mick Rossi conducted the quintet of two trumpets, trombone, piano/synth, and percussion.
The evilest musical moment of them all is when Dionysus seduces Pentheus to dress as a woman and wander into the mountain to blend in with the Bacchae, slow tritone arpeggios spell his fate. The musical eeriness returns when his mother, Agave, carrying Pentheus' skull (she unknowingly murdered him and ripped him apart thinking he was a mountain lion), descends the mountain with blood on her hands.
It was a fairly dark affair made worse by the New Yorker sitting in front of us with incredible body odor.

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