Ten Thousand Things regularly brings classic theater productions to alternative settings: prisons, homeless shelters, and drug rehab centers, among other places.
For its latest production, a Greek tragedy gets a new, street smart rendering.
Playwright and performer Will Power’s The Seven a modern, hip-hop infused retelling of Aeschylus’ The Seven Against Thebes.
Critics found this tale of two brothers who try to rule their kingdom peacefully despite their father’s curse “energetic,” “precise,” “percussive” and “great theater.”
Bruce A. Young in “The Seven”
Photo by Paula Keller
The update could come off as a cheap gimmick, but Power’s work, along with Ten Thousand Things’ typically energetic and precise production, uncovers the ancient but still-beating heart of the play. There may be kingdoms, rulers, and battles involved, but The Seven is, at its core, a play about family, brotherhood, and the danger of lost communication.
I saw this at the Wilder Center in St. Paul with a largely high school-aged audience, it appeared, and they were definitely into it… Even if hip-hop is outside your cultural sphere (and its language makes you squirm) you might see it all differently after this play. Everybody else? Just go. No question. This is great theater.
Bruce A. Young and H. Adam Harris in “The Seven”
Photo by Paula Keller
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.
“The Seven” doesn’t succeed on all levels, and it’s a show that will not be right for all audiences: the pre-teenager, the easily shocked and those sensitive to profanity may wish to look to other venues and other shows. But, warts and all, this percussive staging gives new breath to a very old tale.
The Seven runs through March 10 at Open Book in Minneapolis. Have you seen the show? What’s your review?