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H. Adam Harris, left, as Eteocles and Kinaundrae Lee as Polynices in “The Seven,” a hip-hop update of Aeschylus’ “The Seven Against Thebes.”

PAULA KELLER ,

THE SEVEN

Who: By Will Power. Music by Justin Ellington. Directed by Sarah Rasmussen.

When: 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m. next Sun. Ends March 10.

Where: Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.

Tickets: $25. 1-800-838-3006 or tenthousandthings.org.

'Seven' mashes up Greek tragedy, hip hop

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON
  • Star Tribune
  • February 11, 2013 - 1:07 PM

Are we masters of our own fates and captains of our own souls, as English poet William Ernest Henley wrote? Or are we born to march in preordained steps, fulfilling destinies not of our own choosing, as many of the ancient Greeks believed?

The questions animate “The Seven,” playwright Will Power’s hip-hop remix of Aeschylus’ “The Seven Against ­Thebes.” Power’s funky and sometimes funny retelling of the Greek tragedy — the language includes raps, toasts and chants as well as sly signifying and liberal use of the N-word — gets a riveting staging by Sarah Rasmussen for Ten Thousand Things theater. The taut production moves and grooves on the bodies and voices of actors who lyrically transport us into an unnamed urban dystopia.

“Seven” flows from the myth of Oedipus. A seer once foretold that Oedipus would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. The family sends him away as a boy to avoid the curse. Oedipus matures without a proper knowledge of himself. When he returns, he unknowingly fulfills the oracle’s horrible prophecy.

Power’s play begins after Oedipus (Bruce Young), old and blind, has turned over his kingdom to his two sons. The brothers, Eteocles (H. Adam Harris) and Polynices (Kinaundrae Lee), agree to take turns ruling the realm, each serving a year before surrendering power. Eteocles, who is older, goes first. When time comes for him to step down, he refuses. Polynices assembles seven armies to force him to honor their deal. The battles prove fatal to both.

“Seven” has a few flea-market props and DIY musical accompaniment by Peter Vitale, but the actors carry this show on their shoulders and limbs. They bound through the audience and deliver with a commitment and credibility that makes the old story seem real.

Oedipus may be a wretched patriarch with only a fraction of the play’s lines, but Young commands the play because of his charm and wit. His Oedipus is a magnetic mix of Morgan Freeman-esque soliloquizing and James Brown-style flair. Urban trickster and mack daddy are not the first thoughts that come to mind when I think about Oedipus, but it’s nice to see an old figure in a new light.

Harris is commanding as Eteocles. He lends charisma and charm to the stubborn scion of a curse. Lee brings a gorgeous baritone to Polynices. He and Harris don’t look like brothers, but they make up for it with chemistry.

Aimee K. Bryant plays The DJ, or storyteller. The acting ensemble is rounded out by Katie Bradley, Brian Sostek, Joetta Wright and Ricardo Vazquez as the Greek hip-hop chorus (they play the Funky Fates). Vazquez is a gorgeous singer in a show that offers beautiful tragedy.

 

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 •

On Twitter: @RohanPreston

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