Does the thought of watching a 12-hour adaptation of all 32 surviving Greek tragedies sound a little overwhelming to you?
Well, we spoke with three actors who will be performing in The Hypocrites’ staging of Founding Artistic Director Sean Graney’s “All Our Tragic” and they are confident that audience members will be as thoroughly engaged in the play as they are.
“Sean is an original and inventive writer,” said Evanston resident Geoff Button. “Every minute of his rendition of the plays is original, surprising, fun, faithful, goofy, heartbreaking.”
Morton Grove native Dana Omar added, “If you go to see a festival, you’re there all day. When you go home and binge watch a TV show, it’s the same thing. If you think about Greek tragedies, there’s everything dramatic you could possibly think of in these stories.”
Besides, Button noted, Graney carries characters from one play to another, “so you get a sense of overall momentum and you can even follow people’s paths.”
“It doesn’t feel like twelve hours,” said Christopher James, a Libertyville native, who was first exposed to the script two years ago when Graney workshopped it at Illinois State University where James was a student. “We had a big reading for an audience and halfway through I thought, ‘Have we really been at this for six hours?’”
Button plays four characters who couldn’t be more different.
“The first character I play is Prometheus, the guy who stole fire and gave it to humanity, and gets chained to a mountaintop,” Button related. “When we meet Prometheus, I’m a grumpy old man.”
His other roles include Hippolytus, a 12-year-old boy; Eteokles, a maniacal tyrant (”I get to get my psychotic on for him,” Button joked.); and Orestes. For that final character, Button revealed, “You see him develop from a small boy to a broken man.”
Omar plays five diverse characters. She said of Medee, who is familiar to many people, “Physically and emotionally she’s probably the most difficult character to play. She’s all over the place.”
Cruesa is “more well-grounded than Medee. She’s also in an emotionally unstable place.” Omar’s other roles include Kalchas, a child seer who has lived in a cave for a long time; Cousin Dolon, an adorable child; and Odd-Job Alethia.
James, who graduated from Illinois State University in May, makes his professional debut with “All Our Tragic.” He plays a Titan in the show. “Whenever they need a big army, they call on us,” James said. “Every so often, there’ll be a tussle or a big battle.” He is also understudying several major roles.
All three actors think people will be able to relate to the characters.
“Seeing the stories onstage humanizes them,” Omar said.
“A lot of the characters have a through-line,” James added. “You’re going to see how all these characters develop.”
Button concluded, “The entire audience and actors are all going through the same durational experience. By the end, we’ve all reached a level of exhaustion but also a level of catharsis together.”
‘All Our Tragic’
The Den Theatre’s new downstairs space, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Saturday, Aug. 2-Sunday, Oct. 5; you can see the entire show at once or in four parts on different days.