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'Iph...' teaches us that fame is not worth dying for

Vainglory wins out over familial bonds and even life itself in "Iph...," which opened Friday night at the College of St. Scholastica. Colin Teevan's modernization of Euripides' "Iphegeneia at Aulis" suggests the seeds of contemporary notions of f...

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Vainglory wins out over familial bonds and even life itself in "Iph...," which opened Friday night at the College of St. Scholastica. Colin Teevan's modernization of Euripides' "Iphegeneia at Aulis" suggests the seeds of contemporary notions of fame, ripped from recent headlines, were planted in the willing sacrifice of a young girl on the eve of the Trojan War.

The Greek armies have assembled at Aulis, but the winds are against the fleet taking sail for Troy. The goddess Artemis then demands the death of Iphegeneia, the first-born daughter of the army's grandmaster, Agamemnon.

As Agamemnon, Shane May is the requisite tragic hero, capturing the character's anguish over the cruel choice that damns him either way. May delivers his lengthy speeches not as soliloquies, but as a simple sharing of his thoughts and fears.

With her flaming red tresses and matching frock, Madison Haeg's Klytaimnestra is the show's most striking figure, while Nate Byrne's Achilleus strides across the stage as the potential hero ex machina.

As the title character, Katie Mahocker is put on an emotional rollercoaster, told she is to be married only to find out she is to be sacrificed instead. When the character is required to do an about-face and accept her fate, the scene is strangely devoid of pathos.

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Then I realized that the inherent stupidity of embracing death for some sort of fame has finally stripped Iphegeneia of the notion a bride of death is heroic, and the point of Teevan's modern retelling of the ancient tale clicked for me.

Consequently, the chorus of young women is required to be rather schizophrenic, one moment giggling groupies for Achilleus, another chanting with stylish synchronicity, and then suddenly weeping over Iphegeneia's fate.

One of the most telling moments of the relevance today of this tale is when the chorus swoons over the idea of being sacrificed on the altar for Greece, wherein I could hear echoes of all those sad and pathetic tweets after the Grammys last week from young women who professed their desire to be Chris Brown's punching bag.

Director Tammy Ostrander depicts the blend of ancient and modern through a Steampunk motif, which extends not only to Kevin Seime's set, lighting and sound design, but to the music and costumes as well. The production includes original music by Luke Moravec and a strategic use of Massive Attack's "Angel" as the conflict comes to a head.

The costume design by Sasha Howell, executed by head seamstress Jacy Hicks and the costume shop crew, is absolutely and stunningly spectacular. I was given a lecture on the way home explaining to me in great detail the brilliance of those gorgeous costumes and masques, which I will reduce to the simple statement that this is a show where seeing the costumes is totally worth the price of

admission.

But so is the moral of the tale.

Lawrance Bernabo has written one-quarter of a rough draft of a novel entitled "Iphigenia at Ilium."

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