By TALA ANATOUR
If you don’t like Greek tragedies and aren’t interested in plays written by the original playwrights such as Sophocles, Shakespeare, or Molière, then you wouldn’t appreciate the work of Theatre Dionysia: A Classical Compilation.
Upstate’s Douglas Yates wrote, directed and produced the play performed Nov. 30 in the little black box theatre.
Opening with the dimmed blue lights in the blacked-out theatre, the Dance of Dionysus transfixed the audience through the beautiful, effortless movements of the dancers.
The play is a short history lesson of how Greek tragedies and classical theatre evolved over centuries into modern theatre. Yates combines the plays of Antigone by Sophocles, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and Tartuffe by Molière. Yates said he chose the plays that had a good century gap on them, he loved the power struggle of Antigone, loved how love can change from infatuation to actually falling in love in his favorite play Romeo and Juliet, and he fell in love with how funny Tartuffe was.
It is OK if you haven’t seen or heard of these plays, because there are actors used to narrate a brief overview of each play before acting out short scenes to capture the play’s general message. It did help to have some background knowledge of these original plays, which made seeing it that much more comedic and captivating.
I found it especially remarkable how the depiction of the old theatre was portrayed through the use of language, costumes and also the fun twist on the actors. Instead of men playing all characters including the female roles, the women played the role of men. Another portrayal of old theatre was using the same actors to play multiple roles, such as Stanley Martin playing Creon in Antigone and playing Damis in Tartuffe.
The actors did a phenomenal job bringing these characters to life, but the director helped the audience feel like they were a part of the play with the setup of an old fashion theatre, compared to the popular proscenium style stage.
The audience sat surrounding the play, and the actors would enter and exit through the four corners of the set, making sure to position themselves so the entire audience could catch all of the action and feel like they were in classical style theatre.
What seemed to have caught the audience off guard was the passing out of sparkling grape juice during the ballroom scene of Romeo and Juliet.
I had the privilege of sitting down with director Yates to get his thoughts on the overall idea of the play. “I wanted them (the audience) to feel like they were a part of the party, almost as if they could stand up and dance along with everybody but at the same time enough to where they’re like, ‘I know I can’t do that.’”