The La Jolla Playhouse
It’s a great idea: the marriage of Greek tragedy and Hip Hop. The fusion of ancient stories with modern language, music, and attitude. Yet somehow, the pay off never arrived. There were moments of strength – the pleading ballad for a lover to stay, the rhythmic preparations for The Seven getting ready for war (courtesy of choreographer Bill T. Jones who demonstrated once again that musicals are not the proper format to showcase his unbelievable choreographic talent, in fact they rather suck the life out of his movements).
But as a whole, Will Powers’ retelling of The Seven Against Thebes did neither hip-hop nor Greek tragedies any justice. Hip-hop – as a music, a movement, a vernacular, a lifestyle, a sensibility – failed to make the story any more relevant or urgent or necessary. The Greek tale – as a means of conveying moral truths that have stayed fresh in the world’s conscious for thousands of years – failed to show hip-hop in a fresh, new way. Instead, the hip hop felt dated, like watching an episode of In Living Color. Both elements felt securely rooted in the past rather than bringing each into the present moment where the issues of cyclical violence that the story addresses are all too real and frighteningly current. Unfortunately, some sassy quips, cliched characterizations, and easy rhymes defined Hip Hop’s takeover of the classic story and in the end, neither fared well.