Those expecting fast-paced action will be lost in Sophocles’ “Elektra,” but this version, directed by James Burke from a translation by Ezra Pound and Rudd Flemming, gives a kind of Peter Sellars vision to the 2,400-year-old script.
Agamemnon, King of Argos, has sacrificed daughter Iphigenia to the gods in order to acquire winds to sail to the Trojan War; his enraged wife and her lover Aegisthus killed Agamemnon.
Now Elektra (Jenette Goldstein) fights to keep the memory of her father alive and wants to kill her mother, Klytemnestra (Janet Carroll). She must wait for her brother, Orestes (Reg E. Cathey), to return. Her sister Chrysothemis (Jessica Hecht) waffles between helping and not.
The chorus (Irene Wiley and Brioni Farrell) in this version act as servants; one speaks English, the other ancient Greek.
Pound and Flemming created a more contemporary take on the House of Atreus. They made Orestes cowboy-like and infused the tale with such humor-aimed anachronisms as Klytemnestra saying, “I am not peeved for what I have done.”
Director Burke pushes this notion further, such as making Elektra look homeless, lying beneath an orange-cord utility light. Orestes’ tutor (Kedric Wolfe) comes across as an Iowa farmer. Mother and sister wear cocktail dresses (costume design by Bonnie Stauch).
On the impressive side is the cast, all of whom take Sophocles seriously. Ed Haynes’ set design also delights, particularly his fountain pedestal where Elektra builds a memorial to her father.
“Elektra” is presented in the newly restored Ivy Substation, a nearly $2 million refurbishing of a cable-car power plant that was abandoned in 1953 on the edge of Culver City. It’s a glorious and spacious setting.
Lighting by Charlie Otte, a massive effort for a large stage not designed as a theater, reinforces the play’s drama well.