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Hypocrites’ “All Our Tragic” Review – Magical Marathon Theater

By Amy Munice

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(left to right) Ryan Bourque, Maximillian Lapine and Geoff Button in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

Anticipating the 12-hour marathon of Hypocrites’ “All Our Tragic” my question was whether any theater experience could possibly be worth that much time in one sitting.  On the other end of the “All Our Tragic”experience, my question is now how to find time in my calendar for a return before the weekends-only marathon performances end on August 9. 

 

(left to right) John Taflan and Erin Barlow in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

Judging by conversations with fellow attendees who had already seen the show last year this reaction is not all that rare. 

 

(pictured) Walter Briggs in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

I suspect that if “All Our Tragic” is mounted yearly we will congeal as a recognizable tribe, i.e. “All Our Tragic” addictees in need of a new 12-step mantra.

 

(left to right) Breon Arzell Jackson, Emily Casey, John Taflan and Christine Stulik in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

The script by Sean Graney is as epic as the tales.  He drew his source material from Aeschylus (7 works), Sophocles (7 works), and Euripedes (18 works).  There are 8 acts divided into four parts (1-Prehistorics, 2-Politics, 3-Patriotics, 4-Poetics, with  two meals and many snacks and shorter intermissions giving you a chance to stretch your legs. 

 

(pictured) Emily Casey in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

We meet the Seven Sisters (Pleiades)

 

(left to right) Tien Doman and Erin Barlow in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

who have this sometimes annoying trait of aging at half the rate of their age, Cyclops brothers and their big bad scary necromancer Dad, Prometheus bound and unbound, snake-head Medea, sex-obsessed Phedre and her lover Theseus ---Whew! And probably more, and it’s just the opening Act!

 

(front, left to right) John Taflan, Christine Stulik and Lindsey Gavel in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

That we can keep it all straight, relish the action and even keep awake is in no small way thanks to the brilliance of Graney’s script.  Like other Hypocrites’ productions, there are frequent segues for self-reference observations, many anachronistic and  most very amusing, that serve to keep you just enough off-balance that you remain super-engaged. 

 

(left to right) Zeke Sulkes and John Taflan in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

Then, and without you’re having time to stop to realize how you got there, you are living in an unadorned tragic moment as Oedipus discovers his fate, Antigone chooses faith instead of friendship or fear, or the ruin of the Trojan War has terrifying reminders of today’s pyrrhic victories. 

 

(left to right) Erin Barlow and John Taflan in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

Graney is not alone in delivering this theatrical ambrosia.  The actors are all top-notch, and get to play so many parts that they end up competing with themselves in your mind’s eye for the favorite role they put before you during the marathon. 

 

(left to right) Breon Arzell Jackson and Dana Omar in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

We look to the three “Odd-Job” singers and narrators (Ann Delaney, Lauren Vogel and Kate Carson-Groner) as the touchstones of what becomes familiar, and thank them for their cliff note type summary and hatch marks on the chalkboard of all the characters who are now dead. 

 

Dana Omar’s Médée is such a strong opening role that she could muddle through her other roles as the play goes on—which she does not—and we wouldn’t mind.

 

(left to right) Tien Doman and Christine Stulik in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

While Christine Stulik is quite engaging in the opening as Phèdre and in all her other roles you too may walk away wondering if you will be able to see her in future roles without your mind summoning the image of her as the self-stabbing seer Kassandra.

 

(left to right) Erin Barlow (below) with Ann Delaney, Lauren Vogel and Kate Carson-Groner in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

Watching Erin Barlow surf the waters from severe Antigone to ever-light Hermione is a marvel. 

 

Spoiler Alert—When Tien Doman bares her breast to remind of how a mother’s love is your first love, it helps our 21st Century mindset to leap from Ancient Greek matricide to all the unforgiveable crimes of our day.

 

Geoff Button’s Prometheus would be my top pick among his many roles,

 

(left to right) Geoff Button and Walter Briggs in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

as would Walter Briggs’ hero-lite portrayal of Herakles,

 

(left to right) John Taflan and Breon Arzell Jackson in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

and Breon Arzell’s “I like Boys” Achilles.

 

In this epic tale/tales Ryan Bourgque’s talents as a Fight Choreographer are given ample room to shine.  Warning—sit in the first row expecting to get a splat or two from an eviscerated eyeball and such.

 

(left to right) Danny Goodman and Zeke Sulkes in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

Crouching the whole time in his hoofs, Zeke Sulkes’ goat-man Aegeus is your kinda mensch—or at least you feel that way through the eyes of one of the Seven Sisters who becomes his wife.

 

(pictured) Maximillian Lapine in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

How could we not love Maximillain Lapine as either the evil necromancer with great moves or the would be ruler who seems more to be a regular of the Burning Man Festival looking for a date.

 

To feel the range of John Taflan going from Oedipus overcome with existential angst that fate has dealt him to the mute Pylades with a comic edge is in itself worth the price of admission.

 

These and all the actors shine such that you never quite know how much is their talent and how much is the great script they have to work with.  It’s when you hear the various actors quickly establish time and character through the inflection of their voice in the repeated lines, “I love this time of day..” that you see best see how the actors’ talents are truly part of the mix.

 

The sound design (Kevin O’Donnell) for the evil necromancer alone is perfect- but there is much more. 

 

In informal chats with the repeat attendees in the audience they all noted that they liked this year’s set design much better (Tom Burch) – a proscenium instead of an alley staging.

 

(pictured) Lindsey Gavel in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

The costumes (Alison Siple) complement the scenes moving from contemporary to classic Greek.  Though they have but a short cameo, the inspired costumes for the sheep (Kristine Herne) help the actors make it some of the more memorable minutes in the play.

 

The marathon nature of the production seems to demand a special shout out to the head of the stage managing team—Miranda Anderson and Justine B. Palmisano.  The eye to detail of the production included smarts about food (all vegetarian), recordings of the Greek authors’ manuscripts re-telling the action you just saw as you stood on the long ladies room queue, and the ability to get a bottomless coffee cup, and more.   More than most, this production took a village and this village is run well by Production Manager Pat Fries.

 

You mingle with the actors and the crew during the breaks, flashing them thumbs up of approval that you just can’t wait to share. 

 

 

It was during one of those breaks that Sean Graney shared how nice it was to get to opening night because at least he knows that they won’t be rehearsing any more.

 

Playwright Sean Graney

 

That said, until the script is published he plans to tinker on it, as he did from last year’s production to the one just opened.  Among other projects, he’s also working on an adaptation of The Ring Cycle, especially thrilling news in the context of being charmed by this marathon production and now the promise of another. 

 

Perhaps the weak link is the ending when the actors seem to re-enact their characters’ deaths and then break into song.  How you emerge from a full soul immersion in Greek tragedy is a conundrum that I suspect Graney’s most able pen will continue to finesse in future iterations.   Then again it could just have been the very-late-for-some-of-us hour. 

 

8 (left to right) Walter Briggs, Erin Barlow and Zeke Sulkes in The Hypocrites’ production of ALL OUR TRAGIC adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Photo by Evan Hanover

 

 

For those of us whose pre-knowledge of the Greek tragedies is more Homer-bound—a probable minority demographic on opening night but perhaps more likely to come later—the emotional arc of the play probably comes much earlier when a routed Trojan princess facing enslavement and death says, to paraphrase, “the worst thing is that this isn’t the worst thing that people have lived through or even the worst thing that is happening right now.”  The ladies’ room queue chitchat shortly after that, a good barometer of audience reaction, involved much shaking of heads at how this thing called civilization has changed so little over time.  

 

Then again, it was titled “All Our Tragic” and not “some of our tragic.  It’s difficult to predict what Graney will find to tweak in his oeuvre but it’s sure to be magical. 

 

12 hours?  You may be tired but you will almost certainly want to enthusiastically join the standing ovation at this marathon play’s end.

 

Now through August 16 at the Hypocrites’ new home, The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago.

 

For more information or tickets visit The Hypocrites website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on Jun 29, 2015

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