Most of us don’t know our Euripides from our Eumenides, but it turns out we’re living in a Greek moment anyway.
That’s true even on Broadway, though it hasn’t seen a classical Greek drama since Fiona Shaw starred in “Medea” in 2002. But if the originals rarely get commercial stagings, their descendants are everywhere this season, packing an ancient yet topical punch and collecting Tony Award nominations.
Take “The Ferryman,” about the seemingly unending cycle of political violence in Northern Ireland as it affects one family in 1981.
Or “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in which a Jim Crow-era jury in a trumped-up rape case makes a judgment without finding justice.
Or even “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which asks whether we can muster the free will to correct the faults in our foundational legal document.
It’s a pretty straight line from these three dramas to the great Greek works, which hammer at themes of justice, fate and vengeance as played out in bloody multigenerational feuds.
That connection became especially clear to me earlier this month at the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington. There, halfway between the White House and the Capitol, I caught Ellen McLaughlin’s adaptation of “The Oresteia” in a blistering production directed by Michael Kahn.
Ms. McLaughlin has adapted many Greek dramas — “The Persians,” “Iphigenia in Aulis” and “The Trojan Women” among them — but perhaps “adaptation” isn’t the right word for her “Oresteia,” which feels so new. Though it is faithful in many ways to the Aeschylus trilogy, especially in the bare facts of the main plot, it slowly reveals itself to be purpose-built for our moment, addressing eternal issues from a radically different perspective.
“This is not an ‘Oresteia’ for classicists,” Ms. McLaughlin — a playwright, actor and old friend from college — told me later in New York.
She was understating. For one thing, her version, which runs through June 2, is a swift two hours and 20 minutes instead of the dawn-to-dusk event it would have been back in the day. (She estimates that the three plays lasted three hours each, with breaks and a now-lost satyr play filling out the run time.) Her version is also performed unmasked.
But those are superficial alterations. To understand how powerfully urgent this new telling is, and how it speaks to our time in a different voice, you have to look to the reasons Aeschylus wrote his version and Ms. McLaughlin wrote hers.
There weren’t Tonys back then, but Aeschylus did win first prize for “The Oresteia” at the Dionysia dramatic competition in 458 B.C. (According to some sources, Sophocles came in second.) The Dionysia was fundamentally a religious festival, and there’s no reason to think the playwright was anything but a man of literal faith in the gods. In his version of the Orestes tale, the immortals play a crucial role, both inciting the tragedy and trying to corral it.
Humans are their pawns. The goddess Artemis basically blackmails Agamemnon, who insulted her, into sacrificing his daughter as expiation. In turn, his wife, Clytemnestra, kills him; their son Orestes, egged on by Apollo, kills her; and the vengeful Furies drive Orestes mad.
It’s only then, near the end of the third play, that Athena enters with a novel proposition. Instead of further killings, she suggests, why not have a trial? Let a jury of humans — men, that is — decide human fate.
Aeschylus, writing at the start of the Greek Classical Age, was describing what he saw as the recent emergence of organized justice from the spilled guts of vendetta. Though officially a tragedy, his “Oresteia,” in that sense, has a happy ending.
Not for Ms. McLaughlin. “I couldn’t have the triumph of the patriarchy be the happy ending,” she said.
Nor could she endorse a conclusion in which people are ineffectual in shaping their fate: Orestes is spared only when Athena breaks the jury’s deadlock. Especially after the election of President Trump, she found herself “stumped” as she tried to resist the play’s implicit passivity.
Most of the changes she had been making in the first two acts were to unclutter the story and focus attention, without anachronism, on the way the text speaks to contemporary cycles of tribal bloodshed.
But Mr. Kahn, who has been the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater since 1986, urged her to move further from the source to find a satisfying ending that also implied a solution. So Ms. McLaughlin asked herself: When have people ever done the right thing in the aftermath of terrible violence?
When a friend suggested South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a model, she had her answer.
The commission, she explained, “was based on the idea of gathering the perpetrators and the victims of apartheid in one place, promising nothing but that they would listen to one another — which is also the fundamental proposition of theater.”
So, in her version of “The Oresteia,” the gods are gone entirely — an amusing twist from a woman who began her career playing the Angel in “Angels in America.” The only Furies are the ones inside people’s troubled minds. And instead of different choruses for each act, hers, from the start, are the domestic workers of the House of Atreus, cleaning up their masters’ messes. That they now have Orestes’ fate in their hands is a wonderful irony: “as if Trump were on trial,” Ms. McLaughlin says, “and women who worked in his hotels were the jury.”
But first this jury must accept its charge. Some, too stunned by the realization that “this is where we live now,” don’t; others are implacable on one side or the other. Nevertheless, deciding that to give up would be to “abandon themselves,” the chorus members proceed.
The long, polyphonic scene in which they work out the human meaning of justice is the moving culmination of a play in which words have mostly been weapons.
But if their work is the beginning of something new, it is also something vulnerable; Ms. McLaughlin leaves the jury hung, with no Athena to intervene. Still, in a haunting final gesture, she and Mr. Kahn suggest that where justice cannot be determined with certainty, there can still be mercy, which may be the same thing.
The same issues are still in play in the current theatrical season. “The Ferryman” has the true Aeschylean tone, almost wallowing in the way violence tells an archetypal human story. But plays like “Mockingbird” seem to pick up the struggle right where Ms. McLaughlin leaves it, arguing that failures of fairness do not give us permission to stop trying.
“What the Constitution Means to Me” likewise pushes back against blind adherence to gods — or laws, as we now call them — that ultimately leave many of us bereft of their protections.
All of these new plays are asking variations on the questions most piercingly dramatized in this “Oresteia”: In the absence of gods, how do we make our own justice? In the absence of gods, how do we make ourselves human?
Through June 2 at Shakespeare Theater Company, Washington; 202-547-1122, shakespearetheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes.B:
【百】【里】【子】【玉】【猛】【地】【抬】【起】【头】【来】，“【清】【清】，【你】【这】【是】【答】【应】【了】？” 【蓝】【清】【悦】【眼】【中】【含】【泪】，【脸】【颊】【通】【红】，【羞】【涩】【地】【点】【了】【点】【头】。 【再】【次】【得】【到】【肯】【定】【的】【答】【复】，【百】【里】【子】【玉】【的】【脸】【上】【瞬】【间】【绽】【放】【开】【一】【个】【足】【以】【亮】【瞎】【人】【眼】【的】【笑】【容】，【一】【把】【抱】【起】【蓝】【清】【悦】，【原】【地】【转】【起】【圈】【来】，【哪】【里】【还】【有】【刚】【刚】【那】【温】【润】【公】【子】【的】【模】【样】。 “【亲】【一】【个】，【亲】【一】【个】。”【周】【遭】【的】【人】【笑】【着】【起】【哄】。 【此】【时】
【我】【发】【信】【息】【告】【诉】**【我】【决】【定】【去】【省】【城】，【他】【非】【常】【开】【心】。【他】【说】【会】【在】【我】【过】【去】【之】【前】【安】【排】【好】【生】【活】【上】【的】【一】【切】，【盼】【我】【早】【日】【过】【去】。 【爸】【爸】【知】【道】【我】【要】【去】【省】【城】【了】，【除】【了】【对】【我】【事】【无】【巨】【细】【的】【叮】【嘱】【以】【外】，【就】【是】【叫】【我】【好】【好】【休】【息】。 【爸】【爸】【说】：“【你】【马】【上】【就】【要】【去】【省】【城】【了】，【在】【家】【里】【这】【几】【天】【哪】【里】【都】【不】【要】【去】，【就】【安】【安】【心】【心】【的】【休】【息】，【去】【了】【省】【城】【就】【什】【么】【都】【要】【靠】【自】【己】【了】，【爸】
【没】【有】【人】【能】【保】【护】【我】，【也】【没】【有】【人】【能】【救】【我】。 【我】【想】【活】，【就】【只】【能】【自】【救】。【我】【若】【想】【死】，【就】【只】【需】【念】【一】【个】【名】【字】。 【我】【的】【第】【一】【个】【信】【念】【是】，【不】【论】【何】【时】，【我】【得】【保】【住】【自】【己】【的】【命】，【我】【不】【能】【死】，【我】【们】【这】【一】【脉】【也】【不】【能】【完】。 【我】【的】【第】【二】【个】【信】【念】【是】，【我】【得】【救】【回】【二】【圣】【性】【命】，【我】【得】【护】【得】【妖】【族】【中】【兴】。 【肉】【身】【化】【枯】【骨】，【元】【神】【得】【再】【生】。 【我】【不】【知】【是】【什】【么】【改】【变】【了】【我】今天开什么平码【前】【方】【不】【远】，【巷】【子】【也】【不】【深】，【径】【直】【的】【跑】【了】【几】【十】【米】【就】【到】【了】【刚】【刚】【亮】【光】【的】【地】【方】。 【从】【刚】【刚】【的】【光】【柱】【来】【看】，【绝】【对】【是】【手】【电】【发】【出】【来】【的】【光】，【而】【且】【就】【是】【冲】【着】【他】【们】【来】【的】。 【可】【是】【刚】【刚】【除】【了】【看】【见】【光】【亮】【外】，【看】【不】【清】【其】【他】【任】【何】【东】【西】，【到】【底】【是】【谁】？ 【等】【大】【伙】【都】【冲】【出】【来】【的】【时】【候】，【早】【已】【不】【见】【了】，【和】【红】【衣】【的】【女】【人】【一】【样】，【凭】【空】【消】【失】【了】。 “【不】【管】【了】，【去】【港】【口】【找】
【好】【半】【晌】，【她】【抬】【手】【抚】【上】【他】【的】【面】【颊】，【自】【嘲】【笑】【道】：“【日】【有】【所】【思】【夜】【有】【所】【梦】，【我】【竟】【是】【魔】【怔】【了】。” 【萧】【廷】【琛】【面】【色】【幽】【深】。 【他】【紧】【紧】【盯】【着】【苏】【酒】，【少】【女】【眼】【眸】【含】【情】，【俨】【然】【是】【相】【思】【模】【样】。 【原】【来】【离】【别】【以】【来】，【并】【非】【只】【有】【他】【在】【挂】【念】【她】，【她】【亦】【是】【想】【念】【他】【的】…… 【还】【未】【说】【话】，【苏】【酒】【抬】【手】【勾】【上】【他】【的】【脖】【颈】，【主】【动】【凑】【到】【他】【面】【前】，【樱】【唇】【轻】【轻】【落】【在】【他】【的】【唇】【上】，
【玉】【佩】？ 【蓝】【川】【描】【述】【了】【一】【下】【玉】【佩】【的】【形】【状】，【叶】【妙】【儿】【大】【惊】，【那】【岂】【不】【是】【她】【手】【中】【的】【龙】【纹】【玉】【佩】？ 【叶】【妙】【儿】【问】【道】，“【那】【玉】【佩】【是】【何】【人】【持】【有】，【应】【该】【不】【是】【普】【通】【人】【吧】！”【徐】【平】【说】【过】，【那】【是】【皇】【子】【才】【配】【拥】【有】【的】。 【蓝】【川】【解】【释】【道】，“【那】【玉】【佩】【曾】【是】【当】【年】【昭】【阳】【王】【的】【玉】【佩】，【曾】【不】【幸】【走】【失】，【如】【今】【在】【郴】【王】【宣】【于】【寒】【熙】【的】【手】【里】？” 【叶】【妙】【儿】【缓】【了】【缓】【心】【神】，【想】【着】【那】