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Rescue Me

This winningly irreverent adaptation of Iphigenia in Tauris will engage those familiar with the source material as well as the uninitiated. logo
David Greenspan and Jennifer Ikeda in Rescue Me
(© Brian Barenio)
Since ancient times, a countless number of thespians have been called upon to stand on a stage and articulate the plight of Iphigenia, spared by the gods from family massacre but forced to preside over human sacrifices in another land. But until Michi Barall's Rescue Me (A Postmodern Classic with Snacks), currently performing at the Ohio Theatre in a world premiere production from the Ma-Yi Theatre Company, none has summed up her situation by saying "I'm 34, I'm single, and I hate my job!"

This winningly irreverent and loose adaptation of Iphigenia in Tauris is like seeing Euripides' tale through a funhouse mirror, a humorous, captivating novelty rather than a recognizable reflection of the original. Although its mix of anachronistic appropriation and meta-theater isn't groundbreaking -- in fact, it's arguably already a cliché of downtown theater -- the combination proves giddy and infectious. Better still, under Loy Arcenas' inventive direction, the production engages both those familiar with the source material as well as the uninitiated.

The show's tone is set when the goddess Artemis (played with delicious loose-wristed aloofness by David Greenspan, costumed in a smart business suit) conversationally introduces herself and then our heroine Iphigenia (Jennifer Ikeda) who, in the manner of a bored tour guide, briefs us on Tauris policy: cellphones should be turned off, and if you're Greek, please raise your hand so you can be detained and executed.

Thereafter, the gleefully anachronistic 90 minute one-act moves briskly through the story's key events: Iphigenia's long lost brother Orestes (Julian Barnett) soon arrives with Pylades (Ryan King) in Tauris, only to be captured and sent to Iphigenia for ritual sacrifice. The long-estranged siblings don't recognize each other at first, but when they do they plan an escape to evade King Thoas (Leon Ingulsrud, costumed in an Elvis-like polyester suit) and his henchman (the always game Paco Tolson).

Although roughly faithful to the events in Euripides' drama, the play doesn't aim for anything like its tone. The source material may even be beside the point for some audiences, since the real joy of the show is its revel in the ritual of theater. Columns of video monitors flank the playing area, their images sometimes wryly commenting on the action. (Glimpses of a Spanish soap opera and of My Dinner With Andre are particularly amusing.)

The play's action is punctuated with dance sequences, usually set to contemporary music and choreographed by Barnett, with the wittiest one being a pas de deux for Orestes and Pylades which spoofs the homoeroticism of their bond. It's one more example of how cleverly Rescue Me tackles its source material.

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