Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond


September 17, 2008

Delroy Lindo and Tyne Daly
Photo: Craig Schwartz/LAT 2008

September has come to mark an annual special treat for local theatergoers in Los Angeles. It's the month that the Getty Villa has actually been allowed to make use of its outdoor amphitheater for a whopping 12 performances of a selected Greek or Roman classic for a lucky few in the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In this third year as a theatrical organization, the Getty is presenting Aeschylus’ Agamemnon this month in a translation by Robert Fagles and directed by Stephen Wadsworth which I saw on Saturday night.

I was additionally lucky in that none of the Villa’s more mentally unstable neighbors chose to ruin the performance as they had on opening night by passive-aggressively blasting stereos as was widely reported in the media. Instead this 100-minute piece came off with nary a hitch outside of perhaps a few botched lines from members of the chorus. It’s a worthwhile production that is both minimal and earthy. And while I found the direction and design elements somewhat pedestrian, there are enough high-wattage performances to make the whole thing very worthwhile. Notably Delroy Lindo appears as the doomed King and Broadway and TV legend Tyne Daly is cast as his murderous wife Clytaemnestra. Both were quite good and were further complemented by another stand-out performance from Francesca Faridany as Cassandra who almost steals the show. But isn’t that Cassandra’s job, really?

There are some other rather odd adaptations to the play. Both Elecrtra and Iphigenia who are "not featured in the script" have been inserted by Wadsworth into the chorus to provide an excuse for the cast to reenact prior events in the story that are only later described by other characters in the play. While not a bad idea to help illustrate the background story, it does make a number of later scenes confusing when the dead Iphigenia is sitting around the courtyard hanging out as a periodically ignored chorus member.

Still, it’s a production well worth seeing and a fine addition to the stagings the Villa has put on since this program was approved. Of course, this may be the final year if the Getty is not able to secure a renewal of its current permit to hold this handful of weekend night performances in a neighborhood where good fences don’t apparently make quite good enough neighbors. Let’s hope the Getty gets to fulfill its plans to return next year with Aristophanes’ Peace.


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