Twelve Hours

Plays I've Seen

On Saturday, I saw The Hypocrites’ All Our Tragic, a 12 hour epic marathon of all 32 surviving Greek plays by Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “12 hours of Greek tragedy? Oy vey.”

But truly, it was one of the most astonishing pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen, a once-in-a-lifetime theatregoing experience. It was, frankly, overwhelming, which is why it has taken me a few days to sit down and actually write about it. I sort of don’t know where to begin.

The 12 hours flew by, not only because of the brave and beautiful work onstage, but also thanks to The Hypocrites taking such great care of us, with frequent intermissions, multiple meals and snacks provided, and their new comfortable theatre space at The Den.

I came away with so many dorky behind-the-scenes questions too. What on earth could that rehearsal process have been like? Just how many costumes and wigs are there? Do they actually do a full fight call before each performance? Does it take three hours??

But mostly, I was struck by the incredible work of the artists. The brilliant script, masterful direction, stunning design. And, of course, the actors. These amazing actors who run a marathon at full speed, and then do it all over again day after day, week after week. They each play multiple epic roles, transitioning seamlessly and attacking each successive one with more passion than the last. They have seemingly boundless energy and depth of emotion. The show they create is hysterically funny, never missing an opportunity for a laugh; and also deeply wrenching, never flinching from going to the deepest darkest places that Greek tragedy demands. Life is full of joy and pain in equal measure; they are two sides of the same coin.

I don’t know what I expected to take away from the day, but surely I did not go in expecting to be uplifted. Yet, inexplicably, they manage to conclude these sometimes horrific, often heartbreaking stories with an overwhelming sense of joy. Bad things happen, but we can move on. We have that choice. We are each our own Furies, and we alone have the power to overcome them. The world keeps spinning.

Coda. This was especially poignant in light of the sad news in the Chicago theatre community recently. I didn’t know personally any of the six Chicago theatre artists who passed away last week, but the deaths have taken a prominent place in my news feed as friends and colleagues mourn the losses. Even as I extend my deepest sympathies to those directly affected, it is comforting to see the unity with which our community has faced such tragedy. The show was a powerful reminder, a call to arms even: life goes on for the living.

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