Oftentimes I have talked about the inadequacy of a 300-word review to address the richness of any play. This review will fail; The Hypocrites’ production of Sean Graney’s sharp and moving “Sophocles: Seven Sicknesses,” deserves much more. The evening consists of the principal conflicts from all Sophocles’ seven surviving plays, presented so clearly and directly that it should serve as a Greek tragedy primer, introducing the audience to the interweaving of the major plot lines and giving a serviceable overview of the mighty house of Atreus, weighted with the burdens of rulership, prophecy, and emotion.
The power, pathos, the catharsis embedded in these ancient stories is undeniable. These characters (names you might recognize: Oedipus, Heracles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Antigone) are alive, human, throbbing with emotion and conflict. They snap to searing life like a match head. The release of their energy is focused and shaped by Graney’s skillful interpretation and weaving of the scripts. He teases them out of their individual stories, gets them all on the same stage, and then launches them at one another. The low-ceilinged Chopin Theater basement serves as a crucible; compressing, heating, activating these conflicts and containing their power, catching up the audience in the explosions.
The evening is done right is so many ways. The human experience is recognized; to attend this production is to participate in one of the most effective community-building activities ever invented by culture. You will be fed. You can mingle with the actors, who make no attempt to sequester themselves from the audience. You sit on sofa-like benches, are encouraged to stretch out, get comfortable, even move about if you cannot see and would like to switch your seat.
Not every choice sat well with me, which is inevitable in a production four hours long. I would jump at the chance to discuss these at greater length. They surely deserve the attention. For now, I must simply say that this is must-see theater, it must be experienced to have its effect. Please go see this show.