Theater Review - Rave on

It takes almost as long to say the title Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave-Fable) as it does to see the play at 7 Stages Back Stage. The tragic, high-tech dance party runs for just over an hour and proves a fascinating show that's hard to explain but exciting to experience.

Playwright Caridad Svich transplants the premise of the Greek tragedy Iphigenia to a nameless Latin American country plagued by Colombia-style drug lords and a Pinochet-esque ruling general (Isma'il ibn Conner). A news anchor (Justin Welborn) serves as a Greek chorus and suggests that the general will win an upcoming election only if his popular daughter Iphigenia (Heather Starkel) should die and earn him the sympathy vote.

Her death foretold, Iphigenia, a flighty young woman in designer clothes, embarks on a Dionysian Alice-in-Wonderland journey through the city's "rave" underground. She mingles through the audience bestowing glow-sticks, dances to techno music with cross-dressing cast members and hooks up with transgendered glam star Achilles (Adam Fristoe). The space includes a balcony with limited seating, but it's more fun to stand on the actual dance floor and be part of the crowd that eddies around the actors as they enter and exit.

Svich writes in impressionistic dialogue suitable for a beat poetry slam, and the swirl of strange characters — from trampy factory girls to brutal soldiers — make the action hard to follow. But the cast never loses sight of the play's emotional progress, and director Melissa Foulger uses video to project live close-ups and news broadcasts that sharpen our comprehension.

Iphigenia's wildly diverse influences hang together surprisingly well: At one point the "disappeared" victims of the dictatorship call to Iphigenia like voices from Hades. Iphigenia reveals an attitude toward death strangely similar to a Mexican Day of the Dead festival, where mortality and Ecstasy are the honored guests.

Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave-Fable) plays through Feb. 15 at 7 Stages Back Stage, 1105 Euclid Ave. Wed.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 8 and 11 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. $10-$25. 404-523-7647. www.7stages.org.

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