Aeschylus's classic play Oresteia will take the New York stage this summer, in a new version by director/adapter Robert Icke. Icke's production makes its North American premiere at Park Avenue Armory after an acclaimed run in London. Oresteia tickets are available on New York Theatre Guide now.
Oresteia is not one play, but three. Traditionally called The Oresteia, Aeschylus's trilogy of plays traces the events in the House of Atreus, an ancient Greek family lineage, that eventually cause a curse on the house to finally break. Icke's production presents all three plays in the trilogy as one theatrical event, with some changes, Besides being a contemporary adaptation of the traditional Oresteia, Icke adds a prologue that shows King Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia to win the Trojan War. Unseen on ancient Greek stages because they would have known the context, Icke stages it here, as this event sets off all the action that follows.
The first play, Agamemnon, sees the titular king's wife, Klytemnestra, plan the murder of her husband in revenge for sacrificing their daughter. In part two, The Libation Bearers, Klytemnestra's son Orestes continues the cycle of revenge by plotting to kill his mother and her new lover for killing Agamemnon. By The Eumenides, though, he is wracked with guilt and tormented by the angry Furies, and in this third part he finds himself at the center of a courtroom trial, presided over by wisdom goddess Athena, to determine the most proper way to carry out justice going forward.
Icke's production retains the basic plotline and these themes, but the actions and motivations of the women, especially Klytemnestra (played by Lia Williams), are given more heft than ever before. And Oresteia's themes of justified vengeance, how to best get justice, and the role of the judicial system in a democracy remain relevant to audiences today, more than 2,000 years after Aeschylus first penned the story.
The premiere of Icke's Oresteia took place in 2015 at the Almeida Theatre in London's West End and received rave reviews; a five-star review on London Theatre reads, "Icke's adaptation is not only fresh and invigorating but speaks so perfectly to our generation. For a play that is 2500 years old, the question of justice, mercy and what it means to be guilty have never felt more relevant."
Regarded as a visionary artist for his many contemporary updates of classic works, Icke had his greatest awards success with Oresteia, earning Best Director prizes at the Olivier Awards, Evening Standard Theatre Awards, and Critics' Circle Theatre Awards.
Oresteia in New York is playing in repertory with Icke's Hamlet at the Park Avenue Armory. Both productions — classical dramas that center on themes of family and revenge — will be performed by the same cast throughout the summer of 2022.
Get tickets to Oresteia now.
Approx 3 hrs, 30 mins (incl. 2 intermissions)
July 8th, 2022
August 13th, 2022
July 12th, 2022
August 12th, 2022
July 12th, 2022
Cast and creative
By: Robert Icke, adapted from the play by Aeschylus Director: Robert Icke Cast list: Lia Williams Design: Hildegard Bechtler Lighting: Natasha Chivers Costume: Hildegard Bechtler Sound: Tom Gibbons Other info: Video design by Tim Reid