"Mourning Becomes Electra" (Remy Bumppo Theatre): Family Femme Fatale Feud

"Mourning Becomes Electra" (Remy Bumppo Theatre):  Family Femme Fatale Feud

Mama’s boy.  Daddy’s little girl.  Harmless phrases of endearment?  Or the beginning of some incestual love triangle that will eventually lead to death? Remy Bumppo presents Chicago’s premiere of Edelstein’s MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA.  Christine is beautiful.  All men want her! Her husband. Her daughter’s boyfriend. Her son.  She has worked hard to become the object of obsession.  And now she’s devised a plan to finally be happy.  It includes a lot of manipulation and a little bit of murder.  With all that male adoration, what could possibly stop her from having at all?  The younger version of herself.  Her daughter is the adversary to beat.  It’s a family femme fatale feud. MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA is one big mind game and there’s only one way to quit playing.

My only other experience of MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA was Composer Marvin David Levy’s opera mounted at The Lyric in 1998.  The family drama is perfectly soap operatic.  Originally written by Eugene O’Neill, this current production has been adapted by Gordon Edelstein.  With the Edelstein’s revised script, Director Timothy Douglas paces it deliberately slow.  Douglas lets it simmer into a low boil for each of three acts.  The decision allows for more complex character analysis.  Each family member provokes emotions of disgust and sympathy.  The manipulation extends into the audience.  It’s an on-going guessing game of who is in control, who is in the wrong and who is lying.  Although the length may seem prohibitive, this family intrigued me right into the finale.

This Mannon family is so right at being so rotten. In the lead, Kelsey Brennan (Lavinia) is controlled and then controlling.  Brennan starts with a flat affect.  Her pent-up rage is sad and creepy.  Grieving releases her poignant transformation, Brennan becomes lovingly hopeful. Annabel Armour (Christine) disturbs with her maternal instincts.  Armour is flagrantly cruel but then snippets of vulnerability portray a victim too. Nothing is simple about this family’s dirty laundry.  The men add their own quest for revenge and redemption into the sorting pile.  A charming David Darlow (Ezra) confesses his past failings and then regresses.  Playing his vengeance close to the vest, Nick Sandys (Adam) has me guessing what is he really after?  Or did he really find love on the road to retribution?  A guarded Sandys keeps it riveting.  The war and the women have done their damage, Scott Stangland (Orin) is just a pathetic mess.  I don’t know whether to hug or commit him.

The House of Mannon is an institution.  The residents are trapped in ancestral dysfunction.  They can’t walk away from the family.  MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA is “The Godfather” meets “Mommie Dearest” with a twist of “Girl Interrupted.”  Remy Bumppo uses the right ingredients to stir up the pot on this family recipe.  Sure, it could have been nuked in the microwave.  But slow-cooking a stew is a much more savory choice.

Experiencing Remy Bumppo for the first time, Keaton describes it with ‘family civil war.’

Running Time:  Three hours and thirty minutes includes two intermissions

At Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln

Written by Eugene O’Neill

Adapted by Gordon Edelstein

Directed by Timothy Douglas

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 2:30pm

Thru October 30th

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