By Anthony Chase
Written and directed by Robert Waterhouse at Red Thread Theatre.
Robert Waterhouse has an undeniable talent for story telling. I have often been more impressed by his ability to structure a story and to engage an audience in narrative than I have at his direction. His Mutiny on the Bounty comes to mind.
In this Red Thread Theatre production, Waterhouse takes the violent frenzy and family dysfunction of Euripides “The Bacchae,” and shifts the action to the violence and family dysfunction of rural Louisiana, where the story is amplified by racism, misogyny, and a general mistrust of strangers.
Waterhouse has populated this story with excellent actors, Christian Brandjes as a sheriff marked by fate and trapped by his own personal failings; Eileen Dugan as his fearful and secretive mother; Greg Howze as a visiting mystic who may well be another reincarnation of Dionysus; Geoff Pictor as the deputy; and Harold White as a local clairvoyant, fashioned after Tiresias.
Music accompaniment by Tom Makar with percussionist Marquell Almond does a great deal to enrich the evening and establish the locale. A chorus of dancers has been choreographed very effectively by Bonnie Jean Taylor. The Jim Bush studio has been employed smartly. As downtown real estate becomes prohibitive to emerging theater groups, it is encouraging to see this West Side space used so effectively.
At times the telling leans too heavily on recollection of inconsistent Greek mythology. The videography by Jim Bush is handsome, but sometimes distracts from the truly excellent work on stage, and is not always well integrated into the action. For a first production of a brand new script, however, this outing play is marvelously fun and highly satisfying.