The Findlay Commentary: The Bacchae

The Bacchae came to life in College of Charleston’s very own Simmons Center this past weekend. The play, for those of you who didn’t see it, is about the God of wine, Dionysus.

 

Beware, brief plot summary ahead.

The Bacchae

Playbook from the performance (Photo by Lauren Findlay).

Basically, Dionysus is pissy because Thebes doesn’t acknowledge the fact that he is a real god. He then overreacts a lot and lulls the entire city into a trance except for King Pentheus. The king declares that Dionysus is not a real god and again, Dionysus gets pissed off, really pissed off, and plots to kill him (also, the king is Dionysus’s cousin). The spell causes the women of the city to dance and do some creepy, ritualistic shit, which these women don’t want any man to look upon. The king’s mom, Agave, is seriously under the trance that Dionysus has put the city under. Knowing that men are not welcomed, Dionysus convinces the king to dress in drag and climb the mountain to where these women are doing their creepy shit. They rip the king apart because he is an intruder and hater of their god. After the king’s mother realizes she has ripped her son apart, Dionysus bestows his idea of proper punishment: exile, for her and her father (Dionysus’ grandfather). Causing a merciless murder, exile and unfathomable sorrow was punishment for a city making fun of him and calling him a liar. That makes sense. But, hey, that’s a Greek tragedy for you.

With all of that being said, the plot was not what I disliked most about the production.
The music choices were very interesting. During a “party” scene, the female Dionysus followers got drunk with red solo cups of wine and danced to Pharrell’s “Happy.” I understand that they were trying to mix today’s time period with another unclear period, but it ended up being a jumbled mess.

The show was not received as well by students as other shows in the past. One student said, “The show was like a punch to the uterus.” Another student said, “I would’ve almost preferred them ripping me apart to watching the show.”

The shining beacon of light for the show was the death of Pentheus. It was a beautiful theatrical death. The audience sees a backlit Pentheus roaming the mountain behind a screen. Then the Bacchae tear this man to pieces. They grab ribbon, which represents Pentheus’s body, and pull it apart. All of this is lit in red light, which represents the blood from Pentheus’s body. I felt the death scene was very well thought out and visually stunning.

Ashley Gennarelli beautifully brought the role of Agave to life; she brought a passion that no one else really matched. She was truly a standout in the show and commanded the stage whenever she was in a scene. During one of the last, when she realizes that she has brutally murdered her son, you could feel the sorrow from your seat.

Overall, the only two really good things I could find about the production were Pentheus’s death scene and Ashley Gennarelli’s performance.

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