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MoLoRa

The Farber Foundry boldly reimagines the Ancient Greek tale of the House of Atreus in this fascinating production.

By New York City
Dorothy Ann Gould and Jabulile Tshabalala in MoLoRa
(© Ruphin Couzyer)
Dorothy Ann Gould and Jabulile Tshabalala in MoLoRa
(© Ruphin Couzyer)
The bloody cycle of violence that characterizes the Ancient Greek tale of the House of Atreus gets a bold reimagining in MoLoRa, a production from the South African company The Farber Foundry, now being presented by The Culture Project at the Ailey Citigroup Theater.

Created and directed by Yael Farber, the majority of the play follows the well-known original story, drawing from Aeschylus' The Oresteia -- particularly the middle section, The Libation Bearers -- as well as Sophocles' Electra. In addition, it imports other texts such as Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and the story of Noah's sons from The Bible as a way of intensifying certain moments within the script.

In MoLoRa, Klytemnestra (Dorothy Ann Gould) has murdered her husband Agamemnon, and her children -- daughter Elektra (Jabulile Tshabalala) and son Orestes (Sandile Matsheni) -- plot their own revenge against her. But at a crucial moment in the tale, one of the characters refuses to play out the same tragic saga, wondering if there is another way to achieve justice rather than simply vengeance.

The answer for both character and playwright is the use of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is the same method by which South Africa transitioned into democracy by allowing victims to publicly -- and without violence -- come face to face with the individuals who had perpetrated horrendous crimes against them. And while the circumstances of Ancient Greece and post-Apartheid South Africa are very different, the comparison is nevertheless extremely resonant.

Here, Klytemnestra admits to her crimes as well as her motivations for them, while Elektra describes the hardship and torture she endured at the hands of her mother. Their testimony provides the production's narrative frame, with their tumultuous history revealed in flashback.

Gould has a strong presence and a chillingly calculated way of speaking that seems appropriate. However, she allows subtle shadings of regret and conflicted emotions to color her words, paving the way for the newly imagined path that Klytemnestra is embarking upon. Tshabalala's Elektra is equally riveting, smoldering with anger and giving all indications that forgiveness for her mother's actions is not swift in coming, and that the Truth and Reconciliation process is fraught with tension.

Matsheni's broodingly intense Orestes is well performed, and he and Tshabalala do not shy away from the suggestions of incestuous desire that many scholars and critics have long thought to exist within their characters' relationship. The production also features a chorus composed of musicians from the Ngqoko Cultural Group, whose guttural sounds land harshly upon the ear, and yet somehow have a transcendent quality that effectively drives this fascinating production.


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