Robert Kelly, Playwright
Just out from Dr. Cicero Press is the first collection of Robert Kelly’s plays, Oedipus after Colonus and Other Plays — a real treat from one of our best & most prolific poets and fiction writers (& wait for his Collected Essays coming out this fall from Contra Mundum Press!). The book gathers five plays, three of which, Oedipus after Colonus, Monologues for Orpheus & Orestes reach back to Greek theater & myth, to prolong, redirect, rewrite that core source of Western Kulchur’s theater. As Kelly says in his note on Orestes, locating his desire/need to write for the stage:
How late I’ve come to writing plays. If I guess why it came to that, I’d think it’s because only in plays could I hope to overcome or undo or unmake or remake, somehow process, some unbearable experiences of reading and hearing —like the overwhelming horror of killing the mother in the Greek plays that tell of the murder of Klytaimnestra by her son.
To try to relieve my own inner hurt at that dead, to say, it isn’t so,. But it is so. And is a horror. All the more so because the killing is done to avenge the death of the father, an affront to the patriarchal order, As great as the Aeschylus Oresteia is, it is profoundly steeped in an attitude that is urgently patriarchal, embattled even. It celebrates (even if grievingly) the passing on of the patriarchate to the next generation.
So it became necessary for me to crawl like a mouse before the magnitude of Aeschylus and try to gnaw the ground around his sandals, to dig out the primal story, the scarlet nights when the mother ruled, and where Electra carrie son her mother’s work.
The two other plays, Chair and Hate Radio have more contemporary settings, even if the mythopoetic elements of both link them — the one via a celebration of Dionysus, the other via the Homeric character of Thersites — to the same universe, make all of them x-ray templates of our oldest & newest cultural characteristics in this superb “poet’s theater.”