Rutgers Theater Company presents "An Oresteia" Oct. 22 to Nov. 1

In Rutgers Theater Company’s presentation of An Oresteia, “bloodline” takes on a whole new meaning in this trilogy of revenge and justice seeking, running from Thursday, October 22, through Sunday, November 1, 2015, at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater.

The House of Atreus, headed by Agamemnon, king of Argos and a Greek army commander, has a long and sordid ancestry of murderers and malcontents--they are “the original dysfunctional family,” says Mason Gross theater faculty member Christopher Cartmill, the play’s dramaturge.

When Agamemnon returns victorious from 10 long years of battle in the Trojan War, he isn’t met with much of a hero’s welcome from his wife, Klytaimestra. Instead, she murders him in retribution for sacrificing one of their daughters to gain good fortune, and thus the cycle of mayhem continues.

An Oresteia is poet and classicist Ann Carson’s translation of the ancient Greek plays Agamemnon by Aeschylus, Elektra by Sophocles, and Orestes by Euripides, combined into a trilogy about “the collateral damage of war,” says Cartmill.

With an original musical score inspired by musicians like Ellie Goulding, Bloc Party, and Skrillex and performed live by The Furies, a band created by director Mary Catherine Burke, the production is “incredibly contemporary,” Burke says. “It’s very hip and modern and now.”

Adds Cartmill, “As Mary Catherine likes to say, ‘This isn’t your grandmother’s Greek.’”

Carson’s interpretation uses language that is punchy with a touch of irony, while still getting to “the core of raw emotion, which is the beauty of the Greeks,” says Cartmill.

“The play asks at what point does the cycle of vengeance and retribution end?” Cartmill says. “It has very important contemporary resonances, with all of the things going on around the world.”

As the stories unfold, audience empathies will flip-flop, Burke says. The first two plays, presented in Part I, tell the story of Agamemnon’s death and the subsequent revenge on Klytaimestra enacted by their children, Elektra and Orestes. By Orestes in Part II, guilt and doubt over their actions has taken hold as Orestes descends into madness and seeks absolution.

“This is not going to be what people who attend Greek plays are traditionally accustomed to seeing,” says Burke. “People will be surprised at how entertaining it can be.”

An Oresteia runs from Thursday, October 22, through Sunday, November 1, 2015, at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater. Performances of Part I are Thursdays, October 22 and 29 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, October 24, at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, November 1, at 2 p.m. Part II is performed Fridays, October 23 and 30 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, October 24, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $15 for students with valid ID. The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

This event is underwritten by the Leora M. Sies Theater Fund Foundation.

Posted October 2015