by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal
AJAX, the madness by Attis Theatre
Director: Theodoros Terzopoulos
In its US premiere at the Wilma co-presented Attis Theatre’s famed production Greek tragedy of AJAX, the madness in a chilling excerpt of a the much longer play by Sophocles by Theodoros Terzopoulos. It is a war story of Troy, but universally about the barbaric compulsions of man that resonates more than ever. The opening tableau of the masks of comedy and tragedy have the actors heads bowed in troughs as their voices ascend from a low titter to maniacal laughter, and then descend back into the basins with crying and sobbing. When they finally rise, they each take turns telling the story of murder, war, revenge and mayhem. The red interior boxes doubled as strategic markers in the telling of the story, just as other symbols of knives and even red high heels become equally threatening.
The adaptation is stripped of much of its linear narrative and is more of a physical theater experience. Actors Tasos Dimas, Savvas Stroumpos, Meletis Ilias seem punched through the stage from ancient Greek theater. With ritualistic, unison moves and very stylized gestures, some reminiscent of Japanese Samurai, warrior poses and tai chi friezes. Ajax is so impassioned with impending battle, it leads him to brandish knives and slaughter animals as if they were enemy soldiers. The first actor renders the tale in a tragic oratory, the second as mocking satire, the third comedically as he brandishes though stilettos.
The most intense is Ilias’s version of events, as he is spewing murderous intrigue or blood lust, his monologue builds to shattering intensity and in fact is a dance of death. Ilias eventually simulating stabbing himself desperately at the end of this march, the sweat and droll just poured off him, he delivers the lines with measured sonority. All of the actors make the Greek text sublime to hear, but it was the movement, gesture and pantomime, in other words, classic physical theater.
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