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The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

The Advocate

‘CURSED: The House of Atreus:’ A review

The Contra Costa College Drama Department kicked off their 2023-2024 theatrical season with “CURSED: The House of Atreus.”
Cast of “CURSED: The House of Atreus” performing their show during tech week on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Courtesy of Angelina LaBarre.

Written and directed by Drama department chair, Carlos-Manuel Chavarria, “CURSED: The House of Atreus” is a play about the mythical curse that followed the ancestry of King Atreus, how it came about, and how it ended. The play uses many Greek myths to tell the story, and is self described on Contra Costa College’s website as doing so through “humor, movement, and storytelling techniques.”

The audience almost filled the entire theater on opening night, Friday, Nov.10, 2023. Some with flowers in hand for cast members, others with snacks from the concession stand, and all of them filled with excitement. 

While audience members took their seats, cast members formed a circle on the stage and performed vocal exercises in front of the audience. Once they were done they left the stage only to appear once again before the show started, to stretch and practice lines. 

These pre-show rituals performed in front of the audience set the tone for the breaking of the fourth wall that happens throughout the show.

Once it was show time, the actors then shouted the introduction to the play; welcoming the audience, thanking them for coming and reminding them to silence their phones for the duration of the show. This is an introduction usually done by the director of the play being showcased, so the switch up was interesting.
The house lights dimmed as the first act began.

Cast of “CURSED: The House of Atreus” walks around the stage as a part of their performance during tech week, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Courtesy of Angelina LaBarre.

“CURSED: The House of Atreus” consists of a 45-minute first act that is followed by a 15-minute intermission and an hour-long act two. The story goes through the Greek myth of the curse that traveled through the family of Atreus, starting all the way from the actions of King Tantalus, son of Zeus. Causing a vicious cycle of death and vengeance, the curse travels through five generations.

The show begins with dialogue about the 10-year-long Trojan war between the Greeks and the people of the city of Troy. The scene is set at the end of the war, with citizens waiting for the arrival of King Agamemnon, who led the Greeks to victory.

The pace of the show is steady; however, the timelines within the storytelling jump around a bit. This is something that the characters are up front about, with the characters hinting at context and being cut off by another character telling them, “we don’t have time!” The audience has to trust the process during these times, and as the show goes on, it gets easier to connect the dots. 

Although Chavarria’s writing provides audiences with a lot of information at a very quick pace, all the information given circles back around towards the end of the act. With that being said, an understanding of Greek mythology would be helpful in order to understand what is going on throughout the play, but this understanding is not required to enjoy the show by any means.

The entirety of the past, future, and present of the curse of Atreus and his family is an incredibly dense amount of storytelling, however, Chavarria makes it digestible to audiences. The humor and modern day speech gives audiences a relaxed feeling that forms an attitude of interest rather than an obligation to understand and comprehend Greek mythology as a whole. 

The show delivers this Greek mythology as if it were read as truth from a history book. The writing and acting make it easy for the audience to get lost within the world they are transported to. The cast do an amazing job of storytelling through not only cadence, but body movements and facial expressions as well. 

The detail in the show is prominent and the work that the whole cast and crew has put into the show absolutely showcases throughout the two-hour production. Every movement, every word, and every step has a purpose; not one out of place. 

The Advocate and the local CCC community are not the only ones who enjoyed the show.

In an email sent by Chavarria, he stated a judge from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington saw the show on Nov. 12, 2023 and offered the production a spot in the 2024 Festival. The judge was impressed by the avant-garde approach to the storytelling, referencing work from Tadashi Suzuki and others, and described the show as “outstanding ensemble work.”

If you are interested in seeing a showing of “CURSED: The House of Atreus,” the next showings are Saturday Nov. 18, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 19, 2023 at 3 p.m. 

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Jolie Willson
Jolie Willson, Advocate Staff

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