Thyestes holds court


Director JoAnne Akalaitis, AB'60, presents Thyestes, Roman playwright–philosopher Seneca's tragedy of feuding brothers and family stain. In revenge for plotting to steal his kingdom and wife, Atreus, King of Argos, slaughters his brother Thyestes's two children and feeds them to him.

Seneca, once a close adviser to Emperor Nero who was later put to death, is believed to have based the drama's exploration of corrupt state power and moral perversity on his own experience. The themes resonated with Akailitis, who wrote in the production notes, "When a society is in trouble, as our society is now, there's a decline in moral values. No one is setting a good example."

The performance spans three epochs; it is a 21st-century American production of a Roman retelling of a Greek myth. Though the Greek is lost, the Roman and the modern commingle under Akailitis's direction. Costumes span millennia—Atreus, dressed in Roman armor, pulls the bloody faces of Thyestes's children from an Igloo cooler. The production approaches the violence of a gladiator match as Thyestes loudly devours a plate of saucy meat while the children's fate is graphically recounted, and Atreus is shown, by video, preparing the grisly feast.

Thyestes closes October 21. Court's next production, What The Butler Saw, opens November 8.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Mick Weber as the deranged King of Argos, Atreus.

Photo courtesy Court Theatre

October 19, 2007