Gracious Sisters, directed by Matt Daniels, made its world premiere last weekend at First Stage, as part of World Premiere Wisconsin, and I had the chance to see it on opening night (fittingly, I went with my sister). When we walked into the theater – which had a stage in the middle and seating around it – the actors were already on stage. I promptly checked the time to make sure we weren’t somehow terribly late, but no, it was just this cool thing they were doing where the actors were on stage, moving around silently but in character, setting a tone in the room that was both anticipatory and slightly chilling.
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Gracious Sisters is a play about a young woman named Alice who is an archeological intern from present day. She falls back in time – not a spoiler, I promise, it’s happens right away – and finds herself witnessing the aftermath of the murder of Clytemnestra. The goddesses of vengeance, also known as “Furies,” are chasing down her murderer (who was her own son!), but then Athena calls for a fair trial before a jury. I highly recommend brushing up on your Greek mythology before seeing this show, specifically the myth of Clytemnestra, as well as some quick background on Greek gods Athena and Apollo. Without that context, some of the show might be a little confusing, just because it’s heavily based in these myths.
The actors were talented, conveying emotion through a difficult script – some parts, specifically when the characters from the past speak, are written in language that resembles a classic Greek play. The Furies in particular, a group of three played by Silver Anderson, Rose Campbell and Hazel Dye, were captivating. They moved around the stage in such an eerie and, at times, aggressive, way and sang these soulful a capella harmonies that were chill-inducing every time.
I loved the set, with its various pillars and pieces that moved around to help tell the story. One moment a pillar was a seat for the Furies and later it was used to create a table for the trial. It was a creative use of a simple set, and it looked great. My favorite technical element though was the masks. The gods all wore masks based on Greek theater masks, with dramatic facial features.
Overall, the show was a great commentary on the importance of sisterhood, as well as the necessary balance between vengeance and grace. We don’t see a lot of Greek-inspired stuff aimed at younger folks. But this show did it, showing us the history and the myths right there along with Alice, and her character acted as a bridge between the myths and how they’re still relevant today. My sister and I – both a part of that younger audience – both left with a lot to say.
Gracious Sisters runs through May 21 at First Stage. Tickets are available online.