Successful performances despite low budget
The Department of Classics and General Humanities/College of Humanities and Social Sciences-sponsored performance of Euripides’ Bacchae was performed in the Kasser Amphitheater on April 23 and 24. The arrival of rain resulted in the cancellation of the performance on April 22, but the actors pressed on despite the unexpected snow on Thursday and the sub-optimal temperature on Friday.
The authenticity of the play was one of the most well-done aspects of the performance. Electronics were limited to two speakers and a handful of microphones for amplification of Dionysos’ initial announcement and some singing and instrumentation during the chorus sections; sound effects such as the crack of thunder and the crumbling of rock also played through the speakers at key points throughout the performance. The costume design was colorful and well-put together; nothing particularly seemed anachronistic.
The acting was generally well-executed and fitting for the nature of the play; any hamminess that had occurred wasn’t particularly out of place considering the nature of Greek theater and the need for projection and nobody under-acted or recited lines. Prop failure that occurred when one of the messengers broke her walking stick didn’t provoke any reaction from any of the cast members, including the holder of the stick herself; it is to the actors’ credit to maintain face during an unexpected event such as this.
Immersion into the play was helped by the environment and interaction with the audience by actors. Dionysos descended from the top steps of the amphitheater onto the stage at the play’s start and children playing the roles of animal messengers were sent out into the audience to question if they had seen a man slated for execution.
Those who were seated on the steps of the theater had access to interesting viewing angles thanks to the curved nature of the steps; I couldn’t see most of the prop built for Pentheus’ remains when they were brought out, so I was left to fill in the blanks as to what the mangled remains of the king looked like instead of seeing that they were just an indiscriminate object wrapped in a shroud, later revealed to me to be a Buzz Lightyear doll.
What worked against the play was its nature as a College of Humanities play as opposed to a Players production. The costumes generally looked good, but the props looked a bit cheap and the choreography was a little shaky in the beginning; this is more the result of not having the Student Government Association backing the play than the fault of any students in the production, as Players productions generally have more time and budget put into them beyond the student level.
The singing in the chorus sections was unfortunately off-key at times, although part of the reason for that may be that the music was modal in nature and thus not using the scales most singers use on a regular basis.
Overall, the performance went well considering its small-scale nature; here’s to hoping there will be more performances and exposure of Greek plays at Montclair State, as well as other varieties of shows beyond musicals and Shakespeare productions.