Iphigenia In Splott

In Gary Owen's sizzling monologue of a play, Iphigenia, we first meet the tough-as-nails Effie. She's hunched over in a chair, half-buried in a hoodie in Splott. She slowly rises to her feet, glares at us, and addresses us aggressively: 
"You're all familiar with me. Your eyes dart for the ground as I strut down the lane."

Effie (scathingly played by Sophie Melville) introduces herself early on as a depressed and troublesome young working class woman in this import from Wales, a production of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters. For all we know, she might very well be the "stupid slag" and "nasty skank" she refers to herself as on many occasions as she chronicles her daily ritual of drinking, one-night stands, and lingering hangovers.

Ms. Melville moves through the sparsely furnished performance room (a few seats and a smattering of neon lights) like a fighter, feinting, ducking, and jabbing before lowering her guard to share her story. And what a story it is, with tough-guy rants interspersed with an unusually traumatic and sensitive account of raw insecurity.

The mood shifts as Effie recounts one of her wild and woolly drunken adventures, during which she meets Lee, an ex-soldier who has lost a leg below the knee. She manages to lose her cynicism over the span of a single night with Lee, and for the first time in her life, she feels something different, a sense of not being alone. This renewed ability to take high-stakes interpersonal risks marks a watershed moment in Effie's life, as well as in our perceptions of her. 

Our hearts go out to Effie and stay with her through the highs and lows of the rest of the 80-minute play, thanks to the playwright's perfect ear for his protagonist's voice, Sophie Melville's exciting production, and Rachel O'Riordan's direction.

Effie's night-with-the-perfect-stranger, unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, leads down an unhappy road ("fucked and dumped," is the way she efficiently puts it). Despite this, she has been left with a permanent reminder. She's expecting a child, and she sees the new life within her as more evidence of her "not alone" feeling.
And though, the playwright isn't done with her. He contributes to the pain by entrusting her to a woefully deficient healthcare system, which leads to yet more heartbreak. We are awestruck by Effie's determination as she wraps up her plot, in which her lover and government agencies are let off the hook as she is left to deal with the crippling consequences. And we admire and appreciate her last outburst: ""I'm wondering," she says, her voice brimming with anger, "how long are we going to have to bear it?" And I'm curious as to what will happen when we've had enough?"

The play's title, Iphigenia In Splott, is a nod to the Greek myth of Iphigenia, who is sacrificed to give the Greeks an advantage in the Trojan War.

People like Effie are forced to make sacrifice after sacrifice when their support structures are torn apart. Through her last fiery explosion, we are compelled to acknowledge that we are not simply looking through the sea at the hardscrabble blue-collar city of Splott in faraway Wales.

We're still up against the unbridled frustration of millions of people in our own world, whose lives are being jeopardized by slashed budgets and cuts to education, housing, and social services. We must remind ourselves, "What's going to happen" when they can't bear it any longer?

As Effie, Sophie Melville is breathtaking. She perfectly captures the drama, zeal, and occasional humor of her difficult job. Effie is a complex character that, at first, seems obnoxious and divisive, but eventually gains sympathy and to be respected. Melville is a master of both of them.

The Creative Team has done a top job of bringing 'IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT' to the stage with:

Design by Hayley Grindle; 
Lighting Design by Rachel Mortimer; 
Sound Design by Sam Jones. 
Casting Director is Kay Magson, CDG; 
Company Stage Manager, Charlotte Unwin; 
AEA Stage Manager, Veronica Aglow.

This is an essential time in our society for us to recognize individuals like Effie and take a close, empathetic view of people and their struggles. IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT is a gripping, must-see play for metro area audiences.

IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT is produced by Sherman Theater

The show runs for 80 minutes with no intermission. 
It is being performed on a limited engagement through Sunday, June 4th at 59E59 
Theaters located at 59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison Avenues. 
The performance schedule is Tuesday - Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM & 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM. 

Tickets are $25 ($20 for 59E59 Members). 
To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org.

The Circle is Open, Yet Unbroken

Image result for moon chant prayer
The Circle is Open, Yet Unbroken
As the river flows on & on, A never ending stream. As darkness fades before the dawn, Like waking from a dream. As the log glows on fire; The dew rolls down Gaia's breast, The birds soar higher As nature awakes from her rest. But longest night never lasts Like Summer follows Spring, And shorter days, now are past, As is re-born, our Love. Blessed be... ~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan