Iphigenia In Orem

Quality Hotel, 223 Cuba St, Wellington

02/09/2008 - 06/09/2008

Production Details

Fledgling Movie Star performs one-man play in Wellington next week

Fresh from his American blockbuster movie debut in Laundry Warrior starring alongside Oscar winning actor Geoffrey Rush and movie bombshell Kate Bosworth, New Zealand actor Ryan Richards is returning to Wellington to star in Iphigenia In Orem for 5 nights next week.

This one-man play is being sponsored by Wellington’s newest 4-star hotel, The Quality Hotel in Cuba Street and will be on at the hotel for 5 nights only next week from Tuesday 2 September until Saturday 6 September. 

Iphigenia In Orem is a thought provoking one act American play about a suburban salesman holed up in a hotel with a dark and sinister secret.  It is one third of the highly acclaimed Bash plays written by Neil LaBute.  LaBute is one of America’s most celebrated and prolific contemporary playwrights.  Iphigenia In Orem has been described as ‘enigmatic, chilling and darkly brilliant’.  Compared to a usual 3-Act play it is short and packs a thrilling punch.


Actor Ryan Richards, seen on New Zealand television screens in ‘Ride with The Devil’ and ‘My Story’ as well as several commercials graduated from Toi Whakaari: The New Zealand Drama School just last year but had been cast in television shows and U.S film Laundry Warrior before even finishing at Drama School. He teams up with American director Stuart Handsloff to bring this unforgettable personal account to life in a fantastic setting. 

Iphigenia In Orem will be an intimate experience. Only 15 audience members per show will be admitted. They will congregate in the lobby of The Quality Hotel at 223 Cuba Street before being ushered up to a room in the hotel where the play takes place.  Richards says, "What excites me is how the intimate space we’ve created allows the specificity that can be found in a film close-up with the added in-your-face ‘zing’ that can only be unleashed in live theatre". 

This play promises a powerful combination of a brilliantly written text by one of America’s most successful modern playwrights, a sneak peek at the newest 4 Star Hotel in Wellington and a chance to see up-and-coming movie star Ryan Richards before he is gobbled up by Hollywood.

Iphigenia In Orem
Tuesday 2 September – Saturday 6 September
7.30pm, Quality Hotel 223 Cuba Street
Tickets $15
For Bookings phone 04 3897045 or email iiobookings@gmail.com
For publicity phone 021493043

40 minutes, no interval

Sacrifice in modern America

Review by John Smythe 03rd Sep 2008

In his tragic triptych Bash: Latter Day Plays, prolific US playwright and lapsed Mormon (a.k.a the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Neil LaBute revisits the familial and social atrocities of Greek legend and explores how they might recur in modern America.

Thus Medea Redux finds a woman murdering her child to avenge herself against its father, A Gaggle of Saints characterises Orpheus as a middle-aged gay man in the underworld of a Central Park ‘Men’s Room’ where he is beaten up by a gang of clean-cut All-American boys attending a ‘bash’ en-route to university, and Iphigenia in Orem

Perhaps I should be more circumspect in describing Iphigenia in Orem because this, on its own, is currently playing in a Wellington hotel room (Quality Hotel, Cuba St). But it is relevant to recall that Iphigenia was sacrificed to the goddess Artemis so her father, Agamemnon, could sail to war.

For this Stuart Handloff-directed rendition, performed by Ryan Richards, we are taken to the actual setting, a hotel room, where a salesman chats to us as if we were the lone drinker he found in the almost deserted bar (of a Las Vegas hotel) and brought upstairs for a nightcap.

The drink – red wine – is offered (thanks for that). But strangely, instead of arranging us around the room so that the Man’s movement and actions can be relatively naturalistic, we are seated in two rows facing the bed, end-on theatre-style. Why be site specific if you are not going to use it to best advantage?

Perhaps because of our contrived physical relationship, Richards resorts to quite a lot of gesturing which just makes him look like an actor (or a TV reporter or an Italian or a Bronx American …) and detracts from our belief in him as a church-going family man from Utah (home of the Mormon church; Orem is a city of Utah).

That said, Richards does have an intelligent understanding of his role and a compellingly steady way of delivering the Man’s seemingly discursive tale, which turns out to be a confession. He needs to talk to a stranger and we are it. And cast in the role of Confessor, we are inexorably drawn in by the ‘what would I have done?’ and ‘what should I do with this information?’ questions. In peeling away the layers LaBute demonstrates, once more, what a very clever dramatist he is.

The theme is sacrifice, but not in the normal Christian sense. The provocation for what has happened involves a perceived threat to the material wellbeing of a senior salesman-turned-manager, and his wife and family. Materialism is key. So to is the nature of masculine ‘play’ – one-upping practical jokes, etc.  

Credibility is all and while this production ensures we ‘get it’ objectively, more could be done to seduce us into accepting our role as silent listener, casual friend and complicit withholder of knowledge. The final revelation needs to hit us in the solar plexus and – on the opening night, anyway – it didn’t.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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