LAB! Theatre puts a techno spin on a Greek tragedy

When he first started working on “The Bacchae,” Chris McMahon wanted his actors to be completely naked.

But when the director of LAB! Theatre’s latest LAB!oratory series production was told that nudity wouldn’t be allowed, he settled for bandeau tops and bike shorts.

“The Bacchae,” a Greek tragedy written by Euripides, is about mortals who refuse to worship the god Dionysus and their resulting punishment. The play premieres Thursday at the Center for Dramatic Art.

The bacchae

Time: 8 p.m. tonight through Sunday, 2 p.m. matinee Sunday and 5 p.m. Monday
Location: Center for Dramatic Art

McMahon, who readapted the play into what he calls a “modern techno style,” said “The Bacchae” is essentially about the exploration of human nature — a conflict that he says many movies and plays attempt to convey but few actually capture.

Instead, McMahon said he had a better idea for how to interpret the meaning that lies within “The Bacchae.”

“Why do something over that has been done?” he said.

Greg Kable, professor of dramatic art, said that readapting a Greek tragedy like “The Bacchae” is not an easy task.

“We have a lot of preconceived notions about Greek culture that we get from movies, but trying to make that world come back to life is daunting,” he said.

McMahon, in readapting the original text, said he took a minimalist approach.

“I really wanted to do it in a room, and I really wanted arena type staging so nothing is hidden,” he said.

Keeping with this interpretation, McMahon also wanted the costumes to be as revealing as possible.

“The Greeks had the idea of prudence,” he said. “(This project) rejects a lot of those ideas.”

At first, Paige Kinsley, a member of the cast, said she was uncomfortable with wearing very little clothing, but she saw the revealing wardrobe as an opportunity to try something new.

“I wanted to push myself,” she said. “It doesn’t faze me anymore because I get how it works with the piece.”

McMahon’s adaptation also incorporates techno music into scenes, which sets up an analogy that will allow the audience to connect with the philosophy behind the tragedy, Kinsley said.

“Techno is the modern version of the Dionysian thought — the unordered, the unattained way of life that people know.”

Kable said that while “The Bacchae” is very much a tragic story, it is also oddly comedic.

“Dionysus is the unconscious part of ourselves that we can’t control but have to accept,” he said.

“It’s weirdly tragic but weirdly funny because it gets us looking at the humanity that lies beyond and below, and what it costs us to be alive on earth.”

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