Iphigenia in Splott



by Adam Cohen


Tour-de-force.  There’s one performance to see this spring and it isn’t on Broadway surrounded by dancing groundhogs or a high voiced lying teenager.  Sophie Melville captivates in an eviscerating, powerful performance as Effie in Gary Owen’s “Iphigenia in Splott.”

Effie (Sophie Melville) is a stubborn, drunk-in-the-morning, three-day-hang-overed young woman, kicking aimlessly through unemployment and an X-box playing neighbor, until her life takes a turn when she meets a wounded soldier in a nightclub. Her short-lived discovery of the fulfillment of love is powerful and emotive.

Melville is a whirling dervish – seductive, compelling, repelling, aggressive while delivering a master class in pain.  She is so expressive – physically, facially, emotionally.  The audience is at once confidant and judge.  Owen’s script turns on a dime and Melville runs this marathon, pacing the space like a panther, owning the audience from moment one.  The acting and production are theater at its most forceful and engaging.  Intelligent, moving, highly relevant at sparking conversation on the wide-range of issues Effie raises in her 80 minute glimpse at her life. Attack is her sole best defense, aggression her go-to emotion and she charms with pithy snarl and a sly smile.

The primal, polemic journey of Effie in the hands of Melville is powerful theater.  Though the turn at the end toward the politic doesn’t quite ring true to the character it feeds into the Greek epic of the title.  Her performance could power Times Square for eons.

This incisive, powerful production has direction by Rachel O’Riordan, and stark scenic, sound and lighting design by Hayley Grindle, Rachel Mortimer, and Sam Jones.

Photos: Mark Douet

Iphigenia in Splott radiates at 59 East 59 Theaters through June 4th.  Tickets and more information at 59e59.org