Electra Votes strives to be relevant. But in its attempt to show the way power corrupts, how leaders with power destroy, and how history inevitably repeats itself, the Blunt Theatre Company's production never rises above a narrow platform of preachy banalities. Written by Sheila Morgan, who also stars as the title character, Electra Votes modernizes the classic tale of Electra, her brother Orestes, and their hated mother, Clytemnestra. The play takes place in an unnamed, present-day, oil-rich, quasi-Middle Eastern country besieged by war. (Sound familiar?) Electra broadcasts to her countrymen on World Democracy Radio, rallying against the injustices of "the false king" Aegisthus (George Bush) and his quest for money (oil) and power (world domination).
When the exiled Orestes returns, he and Electra take revenge against their country's oppressors. A newsreel of current events featuring President Bush and images of the Iraq war serve as the narrative for this multimedia event.
Playwright Sheila Morgan, actress Sheila Morgan, and their collaborative creation (Electra) share a very crowded soapbox, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. When the actress, in the character, speaks the words of the playwright, all three fail to provoke thought and just settle for self-righteous condescension. With Electra poised as the voice of the common person, her lengthy, partisan monologues alienate rather than persuade her audience.
For all the script's faults, Morgan is nonetheless an engaging and passionate actress. Her commitment to her role is compelling, as is her belief in the project. But her passion and dedication only make you wish she had better material to play.
Cidele Curo as Clytemnestra makes a small role memorable with her deliberate, menacing deliveries and wild eyes. In her craziness, Curo is the perfect foil to Morgan's volatile Electra.
Rhonda Dodd's pedestrian direction keeps the action moving, although she fails her less-experienced actors in moments of complexity. Costume designer Virginia Tuller's creations evoke a sense of East meets West with a coming together of old and new. She outfits Electra in feminine khaki war fatigues with a Middle Eastern flair. Clytemnestra wears a sexy, blood-red gown that foreshadows her destiny.
Morgan clearly has a strong and valid opinion about the current presidential administration and the Iraq war, but she squanders her opportunity to present it by overplaying her hand. In her attempt to make people think and to effect change, good ideas get lost in anger. It's the equivalent of using an atom bomb to deliver a warning shot.