As Yet Thou Art Young And Rash
nytheatre.com review by Anthony C.E. Nelson
January 12, 2007
Target Margin's production of As Yet Thou Art Young And Rash, an original adaptation of Euripides's The Suppliants, is difficult to describe. The cast and crew have created the script together, and the performers have committed completely to a slow and stylized presentational form of performance that was, for me, frustrating and impenetrable.
The story of The Suppliants, written by Euripides in 423 B.C., follows after the same war that precedes Sophocles's more famous Antigone. The two sons of King Oedipus of Thebes, who has abdicated, have gone to war over the succession, with Polynices joining up with the Argives to war against his brother Eteocles, who has the support of the Thebans. After both are killed in the battle, Creon takes control of the city. Antigone follows her attempt to get Creon to bury the body of her brother Polynices. The Suppliants tells the story of the attempt by the Argives to retrieve the nameless bodies of their sons who fell in support of Polynices's assault, for Creon's order did not only include the famous leader of the assault, but all the invaders. The Argive mothers must solicit help from Theseus of Athens, who must decide to help despite fact that Athens is not involved.
That is the story of Euripides's play, around which director David Herskovits and his cast have created their text. The program reads "the text for As Yet Thou Art Young and Rash was created in rehearsal by the entire company, based on seven existing translations, and Euripides's original Greek." What have they focused on in doing their adaptation? Their press materials state, "After the physical combat has stopped, what responsibilities do we hold towards the defeated? How do we build not only a better body politic, but in doing so, a better world community? The new production responds to these urgent questions." Unfortunately, my experience of the production was that it was more concerned with style than with responses to these questions.
The space that the show is performed in, the Ohio Theatre, seems deliberately set up to be non-theatrical: the wooden floor has tape on it, the only set is an easel which displays a portrait of wheat and several floral arrangements. The five actors (four women and one man) are dressed in basic modern clothing. They assume places to the sides of the stage, and then join one by one into a series of movements. The actors perform in a style where the lines come slowly to them, and the implication I got was that they were supposed to be struggling to remember the story. The actors frequently look directly at the audience, speaking the lines incredibly slowly, often pausing between every single word. I suppose this could have been meant to draw attention to certain lines, but to me seemed to be done at random. An example: "...And (5 second pause) though (pause) they (pause) keep order in a city..." There were some strange interjections that made it seem as if, even though I knew it was not the case, that actors were taking these pauses because they had forgotten lines.
Jane Shaw's sound design is excellent, and seems to emerge organically from the space rather than from speakers. My one problem with it came when the sound was turned extremely loud, which I assume was done to make some kind of point, but had the effect of making me think less about the moment on stage and more about the noise level.
I must stress that, looking around the audience, the response seemed to be divided between people who, like me, were completely off-put by the style, and others who seemed rapt. The cast is very committed to whatever it is they're doing, and there are certainly some beautiful moments in the piece. An example is a gorgeous song of grieving to the tune of "Home on the Range," which is set to the flickering light of portable campfires. Unfortunately, for me, these moments were too few and too far between to provide a very meaningful experience.