Leah Harf, clockwise from top left, Mariko Oka, Megan Penn and Daryl Keith… (Paul M. Rubenstein )
The House of Atreus looks good on leather. Leather couches that is -- part of the seating at T1, the Bergamot Station Arts Center and new home of City Garage. The company’s inaugural production, the skin-flashing, free-associative “Orestes 3.0: Inferno” suits this funky black box space.
Playwright Charles L. Mee has made a career out of tweaking the Greeks, and this world premiere is a mash-up of two of his plays. Director Frédérique Michel’s visually striking result plays something like sampling: dynamic, but diffuse.
Orestes (an intense Johanny Paulino) faces trial for killing his mother, Clytemnestra. Helen of Troy (Katrina Nelson), the Kato Kaelin of the pageant, shows up in swimwear and platform sandals, while Electra (Megan Kim) anxiously twirls en pointe. Apollo hosts this media circus like a Valley dude in boardshorts, but he can’t match the mojo of Menelaus (Daryl Keith Roach), who delivers a rockin’ cover of the Bo Diddley salvo “I’m a Man.” (Justin Bardales performs the onstage music.)
Like Mee, Michel’s work tends to feel like an experiment rather than finished product. You admire her willingness to swing for the fences, even when the hits fall short. Did “Orestes 3.0” shed new light on Euripides’ dense and ancient text? Not really. But Michel stages one of the year’s most startling tableaux: A son tenderly covering his naked, beautiful and very dead mother. That image is worth Mee’s thousands of words.
“Orestes 3.0: Inferno” Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 25. $25. Sundays: Pay what you can. Contact: (310) 319-9939 or www.citygarage.org. Running time: 100 minutes.
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