War, water, and the little death: A review of ‘Clyt; or, The Bathtub Play’
By Owen Woods | email@example.com
OFTEN, theater has been an escape from reality, but offers a keen and often nuanced look into the world around us. “The Bathtub Play,” in ancient Greek fashion, gives the world a melodrama during wartime. With the war in Ukraine happening right now, this play goes so far as to say not much has changed. That no matter when it’s happening, war is war. War never changes, and those who are left behind are the ones who are left to clean up.
It all starts with water. The body of water that the Greeks must cross. The water in the tub. The water of the womb. Even the backdrop of the stage is as vibrant as the Mediterranean. The calm and stillness of water is often disrupted with the crashing of waves. This play is as fluid and chaotic as the ocean, and it doesn’t let up.
In this play it is Clytemnestra, played with every ounce of her soul by Gwen Garger. She lives on her own in Sparta as a mother, a sister, and a wife who must witness the atrocities of war. She must deal with losing her children, her husband, and her very own soul all in the name of that war. While awaiting the return of her husband and the rest of the men who went off to fight, she must grapple with herself and all of the weight bears. She is alone.
WHEN: May 6 and 7, 7:30 p.m.
May 8, 2 p.m.
WHERE: SLV Federal Bank Main Stage, Adams State Theatre Building
Throughout the play, she questions her husband, Agamemnon, played by Carson Leaf who gives a wholehearted performance as a real bastard. His motivations to go to war to rescue Helen of Troy seem needless, hapless, and selfish. In the name of slaughter, in the name of Greece, he must go away and fight a war. All for what?
The point of view of this play is in the hands of Clytemnestra. Her bathtub is her escape, it’s her space, and it’s her time. In that bathtub she has died a thousand times, and some of those deaths were “little deaths.” She cherishes her time alone because it’s never really time alone. She is cursed with the responsibility of children, cursed with a void inside her that can never be filled. Her dramatic laments are looked down upon, but for her it is a sense of being, it is her only way to cope with the world she was born into. There is no godliness in her and for that she must act as her own destiny’s guide.
“The Bathtub Play” is set during the Trojan War. But it’s also happening right now. She is able to dial her sister, Helen, on the phone. Helen is played with a timely and on-the-nose blissful ignorance by Jamie Bulzomi. The thoughts and feelings, the anger and grief, the sense of chaos and helplessness are feelings that are washing over the world as we speak. The language and dialogue dabbles briefly into a Greek tone, but all the dialogue, cursing included, is all very modern and easy to follow. The monologues don’t drown themselves in ancient dramatic texture.
Though the play touches on these sensitive subject matters, it finds time to make light of it all, but not for long. This play is a drama, and a drama it is. Certain times throughout feel shortsighted. The montage of 10 years passing was difficult to grasp onto at some points and the interpretive dances of the Chorus were sometimes too strange for comfort. However, these did not detract from the rest of the performance. The play doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat its effort to create the sense of chaos that surrounds those who are left behind during wartime: the mothers, the sisters, the daughters, the old and lame. The fog of war is just as thick here as it is over there.
Garger’s performance was exhausting in all the right ways. The echoing cries and wails came from a place deep within. After first seeing Garger perform in “Sour Milf” I knew there was something special. A real sense of overwhelming grief filled the stage from the confines of a clawfoot bathtub. A real sense of love and a genuine reaction to the world, too, filled the theater and demanded attention from the audience. The connection to the world within the play superseded our own and for two hours, the only concern on people’s minds was an Ancient Greek tragedy. Clytemnestra is “done being left behind,” and in feeling that way, took us all with her.
“Clyt; or, The Bathtub Play” was written by Elisabeth Giffin Speckman and directed by Professor Jenna Neilsen. It is presented by Adams State University Theatre, with the School of Visual and Performing Arts.