Mourning Becomes Electra
a kate west review
by Eugene O'Neil
directed by Geoff Elliott & Julia Rodriguez Elliott
running April 8 -
Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon (William Dennis Hunt) comes home from war, only to discover that his wife Christine (Deborah Strang) no longer desires him when she finally confesses that she never loved him and has taken a lover, Captain Adam Brant (Geoff Elliott). Lavinia (Libby West) is the jealous daughter, who, like Electra in the Greek tragedy, plots against her mother (like Clytemnestra) and worships her father (like Agamemnon).
Christine makes the first move by murdering her husband and Lavinia happens to catch her in the act, the daughter’s worst fear come true. Brother Orin (Doug Tompos) comes home shortly after, like his Greek equivalent Orestes, shell-shocked from war and ready to wreak vengeance. Tied to his mother’s apron strings his whole life, he refuses to believe his sister’s account of events, until they actually catch Christine embraced in her lover’s arms.
The resulting tragedy lasts a whopping three hours and forty-five minutes and leaves the audience drained, but never bored. O’Neil knows his stuff.
Libby West, as Lavinia, is a bit stiff at first, partly because her character is so tortured and unexpressive. Warming up by the end, Lavinia becomes her mother all over again, with all the fiercely dangerous sexuality. Her black dress in the beginning is later exchanged for the vibrant green colors of her mothers. Doug Tompos is good as the equally suffering brother, becoming convincingly insane by the end.The supporting cast, love interests Toby Meuli (Peter Niles) and Hazel Niles (Amy Chaffee), are fine, representing a normal, balanced family which is almost sucked into the dreaded darkness of the Mannon family, but thankfully escapes that fate at the end. Deborah Strang, as the domineering matriarch, is strong and expressive, going from a powerful force of nature to a terrified victim of fate.
Like the Furies of Greek mythology, vengeance is exacted with brutal inevitability. No one escapes retribution. The chilling moment at the end, when the sole family heir and survivor is literally entombed in the Mannon household, is well done indeed. Faithful servant Seth (Apollo Dukakis) pounds hammer into window shutters, echoing nails into a coffin and thus we know that justice has been served. The Mannon legacy, rife with haunted memories and a legacy of the doomed can finally be put to rest. The ghosts of the past will be silent.