Senior project captures
complex ‘Electra’
Posted March 02, 2007
Leah Heagy
Mourning the death of her father Agamemnon, Electra stands stricken with grief. Electra was played by Rhiannon Cuddy. Cuddy, along with six fellow ULV theater students and alumni, are planning to debut their first play at the Luna Playhouse as the Umbrella Machine Theatre Company in June.

An epic tale of resentment and vengeance, “Electra” revealed a world of tragedy and tears, illustrating one woman’s risk-all journey for justice.

Marking the beginning of a professional acting career, Rhiannon Cuddy played the role of a lifetime, capturing the “many layers” of Sophocles’ “Electra” after almost a year’s work, with the presentation of her senior thesis Saturday in Dailey Theatre.

The result of a late night IHOP revelation, collaborative efforts between a cast and crew of more than 20 members and many long hours, “Electra” has placed her one step closer to success and dreams fulfilled.

“I loved just coming up with who she was, just exploring her world which is completely different from my own,” Cuddy said. “The challenge of her was the best part for me.”

Beginning after the death of Electra’s father, King Agamemnon, “Electra” is centered on revenge, ultimately revealing a tale of familial betrayal.

For seven years, mourning becomes Electra; living solely for the promise of revenge upon the return of her brother Orestes (Sam Guzik), she laments her father’s wrongful death and her mother Clytemnestra’s (Sarah Morales) cruel ways.

After receiving a prophecy from an angelic, gargoyle-esque woman (Tanya Wilkins), Orestes makes his vengeful return.

Death is foreshadowed in no subtle terms, as he receives orders to avenge his losses, not by “shield nor army” but “secretly” and “with his own hands.”

Clothed in the colors of sorrow, Cuddy slowly emerged onstage, gently tossing flower petals from a flute clasped in her hands. But before the petals fluttered to the floor, the flute was shattered, sending a booming crash through the theater and immersing viewers in Electra’s “cage” of misfortune.

“It was a huge formidable role; she had to be intelligent and cerebral but simultaneously careless and reckless in the play,” said director James Darrah, a ULV alumnus.

Though the Sophocles classic was slightly tailored to fit Cuddy’s performance vision, the tale remained, for the most part, true to form.
Employing sarcasm and genuine emotion, Cuddy fully captured the soul of a woman imprisoned by sorrow.

Though Aspasia (Natasha Velasco) and Melaina (Seanette Garcia) serve as beacons of hope and voices of reason, she proves inconsolable, overpowered by an unquenched thirst for retaliation.

Electra’s sister Chrysothemis (Stephanie Barraco) presented a contrasting approach to anguish, wearing bright colors and a stoic expression.

Keeping rhythmic time to almost cheerful music and spinning gracefully across the stage amid handfuls of confetti, she chooses to mourn in only self-rewarding ways, turning an indifferent eye to the malicious and unfaithful acts of Clytemnestra.

Clashing viewpoints present conflict throughout the play, providing a gritty display of the tribulations triggered by revenge. Electra, fueled by hurt and hatred, begins to lose hold of sanity, as the lines between wrong and right, or justice, become blurred.

While Morales captured the essence of evil in exact wicked stepmother form, demonstrating general lack of concern for her misdeeds, Guzik took on the persona of a madman.

Standing center aisle, fake blood smattering his pale face, he was seemingly conquered by malevolence, or, perhaps, remorse.

Settling scores, Orestes ultimately fulfilled Electra’s ambitions, committing matricide and proving the price of justice steep.

“Electra has been the most trying, personally heartbreaking, and the most beautiful character I have worked on and hopefully created,” Cuddy said in her program notes.

Cuddy has already begun to develop a professional career, creating a theater company, the Umbrella Machine Collective, with a group of ULV alumni.

“I was very pleased with the production as a collaboration,” Darrah said. “It represents the exact type of work Umbrella Machine will produce.”

Cuddy said she would continue her acting pursuits, welcoming many more ‘laughs, tears, sweat, blood, bumps and bruises,” with the professional debut of “Electra” at the Luna Playhouse in June.

“Acting-wise, I first had to find the right way to approach (Electra),” Cuddy said. “Then I was able to go for it.”

Jessica Bell can be reached at

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