Saturday, October 08, 2011

New Plays: Dionysus in '69 - TIME:

Of course, there are no seats. Instead, spectators can perch on random, wooden-towered scaffoldings with platforms, unless they prefer to sit on the floor or lean against a wall. The cast is casually unclothed. The men are dressed, as it were, in black jockstraps. The women are braless beneath their shirts, and on some nights topless, if they are in a mood to improvise. The cast begins speaking in tongues, but English is the least of them. The program says that the play is "somewhat like Euripides' The Bacchae," but no one is likely to recognize it. Anyway, thought is the last thought in the mind of Director-Adapter Richard Schechner, who is also editor of the passionately avant-garde Drama Review. His production Dionysus in '69 belongs to the doin generation.

Since the god Dionysus is present, an orgy is mandatory. Sweaty, tangled heaps of men and women kiss and fondle each other from head to toe, all the while uttering erotic moans and groans. Though the audience holds no Equity cards, it is urged to join the act, in the name of "participatory, environmental theater." Sibilant seductive whispers invite the spectators to dance. Some playgoers are gin'gerly about it; others are the life of the orgy.

As an added startler, two or three members of the cast sidle up to a girl in the audience and begin speaking words of love in her ear. The girl may be induced to lie on the floor, where the actors rub against her and caress her. At such moments, playgoers may wonder whether Dionysus was the Greek god of wine or voyeurism.