Eugene O'Neill was a playwright who was always ahead of his time. His daring, innovative theatrical techniques are no more apparent than in his sprawling "Mourning Becomes Electra"--an ambitious attempt to recreate the only extant Greek trilogy, the "Oresteia" of Aeschylus.
Written long before the invention of television, O'Neill's play may be more effective on the small screen than in the confines of a large Broadway theatre. In the case of this ambitious 1978 television adaptation, the superb performances benefited from the close-ups and nuanced emotional details captured on camera.
The intensity and profound nature of this television adaptation are felt from start of finish, and there was a clear attempt to remain faithful to O'Neill's text and vision. With the play set in the years immediately following the Civil War, it is tempting to seek a broad interpretation of American culture and the American Dream. But "Mourning Becomes Electra" has a much greater relevance in the area of human psychology, especially family dysfunction. The history of the Mannon clan stands for all of our families, as the characters carry the pain of past generations.
The result of this relentless tragedy is a deeply personal experience for all viewers. The DVD version includes outstanding commentary from Erich Segal--the screenwriter of "Love Story" and a fine literary historian. Segal's perceptive comments and background help to make this production of "Mourning Becomes Electra" an absolutely unforgettable experience.
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