STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
The drama surrounding family is as old as time. And a timeless ancient Greek tragedy dealing with that, revenge, grief, and love, takes the stage at Villanova Theatre September 20 through October 2.
“Electra” is about fate and people struggling to understand the will of the gods. The story, written by Sophocles, is set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan war. It tells the story of Electra and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step-father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.
“‘Electra’ is a painful tale of suffering, vengeance and redemption,” said Patrick McAndrew, who plays Orestes. “It’s about a woman who has to dig deep within herself to find the courage to act with integrity. She has to overcome the oppressive patriarchy in order to take matters into her own hands.”
Megan Slater plays the mother, Clytemnestra, who loves her children fiercely.
“She and Electra have a complicated relationship because deep down, I believe they really love each other, but neither can make the other understand their point of view,” she said.
Though not a mother, Slater can relate to that strong and protective maternal feeling.
“I love my friends fiercely in the same way,” she said. “When the people I love have their hearts broken or face disappointment I have a strong ‘mama tiger’ impulse to try and protect them. Clytemnestra is a big mama tiger: a little aloof, fierce and hugely protective.”
That mother-daughter dynamic is timeless.
“That complicated, loving, and sometimes deeply frustrating relationship is something I believe many people can relate to,” she said.
Kara Krichman, originally from Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, (now in Bryn Mawr), plays the daughter, Electra.
“She’s an incredibly strong female character. She’s persistent. She knows what she wants,” said Krichman. “She’s dealing with many inner struggles because she cannot see eye-to-eye with her loved ones.”
Getting into Electra’s skin wasn’t easy.
“When I found out I was cast, I was in shock. My first thought was, ‘I am nothing like this woman. How do I connect with her?’”
Part of Krichman’s process for finding Electra has been figuring out what makes them similar. They do actually have some things in common.
“Electra and I both share the quality of being stubborn,” she said. “My main goal for this production is to paint Electra as an honest human being. I want her to be more than just a mournful woman out for revenge.”
McAndrew, who’s from Downingtown and who lives in Ardmore, said Orestes knows his destiny and aims to fulfill it.
“For Orestes, coming back after all of these years is exhilarating, as he has been told epic stories about his family throughout his entire life,” he said. “Orestes is willing to do all that he can to help his sister in avenging his father’s death and, in turn, take the throne.”
McAndrew finds he and Orestes share some similarities.
“Orestes has an element of self-reliance that I find within myself in that I trust in making my own decisions,” he said. “He’s also someone who is disciplined and lives life on his own terms, something that I find admiring and a trait that I want to incorporate more in myself.”
And though the play is ancient, McAndrew enjoys trying to make it relevant to today.
“Classical theatre has the opportunity to explore imagination and create something new and exciting from something old,” he said. “Although the language of this play is very much classical, the imagined world we have created is very contemporary and relatable.”
Slater, who’s originally from Sewickley and has called Philadelphia home for 11 years, loves classical theater.
“I definitely have a soft spot for the heightened language in classical work,” he said.
And the themes are relevant, even in 2016, said Krichman.
“This show is the ultimate family drama,” she said. “The plot and text are as juicy as today’s news headlines.”
Everything old is new again.
IF YOU GO
When: Preview Sept. 20; Opens Sept. 21; Runs Tues.-Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through Oct. 2.
Where: Villanova Theater, Vasey Hall, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Ave., Villanova
Tickets: $21-$25, with discounts for seniors, students, alumni, and groups.
Info.: Call (610) 519-7474 or visit www.villanovatheatre.org.