Eugene O’ Neill had a point: mourning indeed becomes Electra. And in the demanding title role of Sophocles’ “Electra, ” with a performance that does justice to its larger-than-life suffering, Elizabeth Christine Tanner proves it. Bohemian Theatre Ensemble’s respectable production of this classic Greek tragedy in which siblings bond through bloodshed is helped immensely by the Heartland Studio Theatre’s cramped confines: not only does this Electra’s wails of woe bounce off the walls and distressingly reverberate within the ears, but one is also close enough to witness as, inch by inch, Tanner’s inconsolable grief writhes her body into a puddle of flesh onto the floor. It’s a brave performance of suitable extremity on par with the play’s epic story and emotions, and one that is nicely offset by director Lara Tibble’s clear and direct adaptation, as well as by an original score with tension-soothing instrumentations that underscore and bookend key scenes. As the Queen who suffers the ultimate punishment for both her adultery and the murder of Electra’s dear daddy Agamemnon, the Cleopatra-esque Deanna Boyd also turns in an equally strong performance. But most memorable is the effect that this combination of acting at a fever pitch and physical claustrophobia has on the well-executed denouement: it makes for a gripping and deeply satisfying catharsis, which may be troubling for neutral and pacifistic audiences in these times of war and barbaric terrorism. Indeed, in Electra’s wish fulfillment therein lies the chilling suggestion that hatred can be stronger than love, that patriarchal brutality can be embraced in the face of moral outrage and that when it comes to dealing with grief, along with anger, denial, bargaining and depression, there is also revenge. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“Electra” plays at Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 North Glenwood, (773)791-2393, through May 14.