Entertainment » Theatre

The Followers

by Daniel Lamb
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Feb 7, 2018
A publicity photo for "The Followers".
A publicity photo for "The Followers".  

The 7Stages production of "The Followers: A Retelling of 'The Bacchae'" evokes humor, decadence and a godly curiosity.

Margaret Baldwin and Michael Haverty bring together several years of collaboration in this production having workshopped this adaptation at Kennesaw State University in iterative form. What results is a visual, lyric and strange retelling of a very old story. Most striking is the play's visual aesthetic. The stage design with its giant floor mural of the dead mother of god Semele is engrossing, and the costume choices create the perfect complement to create a time known as "The End of Now" in the city of Thebes.

At the center of the play is the clash between Dionysus and Pentheus, one that dramatizes several of the play's critiques of the binary concept of fact vs. fiction (or mythology). In our current political landscape, the idea of multiple sets of facts underscores the conflict of the play in interesting and uncomfortable ways. In the world of Thebes, we see mythology and technology facing off.

Second to the issue of faith vs. reason is the question of security and technology and how that relates to the rise of technocratic rule. In a (thinly) veiled reference to today's voice assistant technology, the non-human character Securitas represents the potential such devices have in furthering less-than-democratic agendas. Pentheus uses this technology to eliminate Dionysus' followers by identifying their allegiance to the demigod through Securitas' listening capabilities. Let's hope Donald Trump isn't listening to what we tell Alexa; otherwise, we'll all be labeled traitors.

Directors Baldwin and Haverty bring out the best in Ofir Nahari. Ofir as a choreographer is one thing - he creates sensual, visual movement that serves his Dionysian ends quite well. However, his portrayal of Dionysus is nuanced - he's playful, alluring and rife with conflict as any man-god hybrid should be.

Also of particular note is Diany Rodriguez as Agave - she (almost) steals the show away from Ofir, and her monologues stand out as some of the play's best moments.

Klimchak's performance is outstanding. His execution of music director Diliana Slavova's vision is an eclectic mixture of percussive and odd instruments that go far in dramatizing the clash between the old ways and Pentheus' drive towards technocracy through his use of familiar yet tribal sounding rhythm and tone.

Margaret Baldwin's adaptation of Euripides' "The Bacchae" brings top-of-mind the issue of binaries and how they wreak havoc on society and consciousness: faith vs. reason, woman vs. society, control vs. chaos, old gods vs. new gods and man vs. god. But it's not all so heavy. Although this play is born of Greek tragedy, it's kind of a tragicomedy or a dramedy. Baldwin infuses moments of levity and absurdism in the face of the tragic ending we all expect (and it does come).

"The Followers" runs through February 25, 2018 at 7Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307. For tickets & info, visit www.7stages.org or call (404) 523-7647.

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