In Agamemnon, the first of the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus, Clytemnestra welcomes the warrior king home from the Trojan War, to a bloody conclusion. Aquila Theatre Company opens an Off-Broadway revival of the Greek classic, translated by Peter Meineck and "co created" and co-directed by Meineck and Robert Richmond, Feb. 12, following previews from Feb. 3.
Olympia Dukakis is Clytemnestra, who continues to grieve over the slaughter of daughter Iphegenia — pronounced here as "iffa-gainea." Dukakis' husband, Louis Zorich, plays Agamemnon, who has the temerity to bring home the luscious war prize, the shell-shocked and plaintive Cassandra (played by Miriam Laube), who has the gift of foresight.
Because of the star casting, the staging represents the highest-profile work in the history of Aquila. The troupe is known in New York for its frisky, athletic and often comic stagings of classics and has mixed American, British and international performers in the past. Agamemnon marks the first all-American cast for the company.
Performances play the John Jay Theatre to Feb. 22. Aquila intends to stage parts two and three of the story (The Libation Bearers and The Furies) in coming seasons.
* Preview audiences at SUNY Purchase witnessed Academy Award-winner Dukakis and husband Zorich in performances Jan. 30-Feb. 1, in anticipation of the Feb. 3 22 Off-Broadway run.
According to Aquila notes, "Agamemnon is the first great play of the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus. Set at the end of the 10-year Trojan War, a victorious Agamemnon returns home only to be murdered by his wife Clytemnestra in revenge for the slaughter of their daughter, Iphigenia; a timeless tale that tackles the themes of justice, revenge, retribution, gender roles, politics and power."
The cast includes David Adkins, Marco Barricelli, Louis Butelli, Gillian Claire Chadsey, Carissa Guild, Nicholas Kepros, Matthew Lewis, Toni Melaas, Thomas Schall, Magin Schantz, John Sierros and Alex Webb.
The translation is by Aquila artistic director Peter Meineck, who co-directs and "co-creates" the staging with Robert Richmond.
Aquila's Agamemnon features costume design by Academy and Tony Award-winner Theoni V. Aldredge and music by Anthony Cochrane (who has created original music for many Aquila productions).
Agamemnon marks Aquila's first subscription season in Manhattan, and the thematic pitch is "productions that intersect on the theme of the effects of war." Upcoming are Shakespeare's Othello, set in a contemporary military world (May 18-June 27, at Baruch Performing Arts Center); followed by the stage adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King, a retelling of the classic adventure of two British rogues on a quest to conquer the wilds of Afghanistan (June 30-Aug. 8 at Baruch Performing Arts Center).
Aquila Theatre Company was founded in London in 1991 by Peter Meineck "to present innovative productions of classical drama. Since then the company has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Europe with annual productions in New York and London.
In 1999, Aquila moved to New York and has since presented eight productions, including Homer's Iliad: Book One; Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Comedy of Errors; and Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Recently, Aquila was one of six nonprofit U.S. theatre companies to be chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to bring Shakespeare to communities across the country (in 2003-04).
Tickets for Agamemnon are available through www.TeleCharge.comor (212) 239-6200. Subscriptions for Aquila's 2004 season (three plays for $90) are available by phone at (212) 998-8017 or online at www.aquilatheatre.com.
John Jay Theatre is at 899 Tenth Avenue, across from Lincoln Center.