Ellen Lauren is a terrific Dionysus. Lanky, agile, and puckish, she even quips with the audience in a way that feels unforced: “Wanna touch an actor?” she asks moments into The Bacchae, making a beeline for the front row. “I know you do.” I’m not sure he did. But Lauren seemed like she would be delighted with any reaction.
Unfortunately, the production that surrounds her does nothing to earn such a performance. Director Anne Bogart has made the baffling decision of staging nearly all the drama with the characters standing in a line and delivering their dialogue to the audience, creating the atmosphere of a high school assembly. This isn’t helped by a Tiresias (Barney O’Hanlon) in sunglasses and beach hat (played for laughs) and Pentheus’ (Eric Berryman) campy transvestism (definitely played for laughs, with Sammy Davis Jr.’s “I Gotta Be Me” accompanying his entrance).
Ultimately, this Bacchae is lazy and lifeless, a monotonous slog that does nothing to undermine the popular belief that Greek tragedy is boring. This is boring.
The Bacchae ran through October 7th at the BAM Harvey Theater. 651 Fulton Street Brooklyn, NY. 1 hour 40 minutes. No intermission.