When a young man walks into hell seeking help to kill his mother, the order of the universe hangs in the balance.

Symmetry Theatre Company in Berkeley presents a stage reading of Just Deserts by Carol S. Lashof directed by Chloe Bronzan on Sunday, April 21 at 7 pm in the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. Berkeley CA. http://www.symmetrytheatre.com/

featuring: Louise Chegwidden,* Louel Senores, Megan Kilian Uttam,* and Valerie Weak*

 * Member AEA.  Equity approved project.

In Just Deserts, I am seeking to remake the foundation myth of the western justice system. My play retells the ancient story of cultural transformation from the point of view of The Furies—immortal beings dedicated to the age-old principle of a slit throat for a slit throat.  In the climax to the traditional myth, the young Orestes, son of King Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra, stands accused of blood murder. His action is only the latest in a series of revenge killings–he has killed his mother to avenge his father’s death–and Athena decides that the cycle of vengeance should end.  So she stages the first-ever trial-by-jury to determine Orestes’ guilt or innocence.  The god Apollo defends Orestes on the grounds that the father is a child’s only true parent, the mother merely a vessel. The jury of twelve is split, but Athena, the goddess of justice, casts the tie-breaking ballot in favor of innocence, explaining that because she was born fully armed from Zeus’ brow, she owes no allegiance to mothers.  Although the Furies resist the verdict at first, Athena bribes and bullies them into compliance, and they finally accept a new role as “The Eumenides,” benevolent guardians of hearth and home.

Since I first encountered the Oresteia (when teaching a required course on the “Great Books” to freshmen at Saint Mary’s College of California), I have been disturbed by how this myth denies the agency of the mother.  I continue to be disturbed by our culture’s denial of mothers as moral agents even while we elevate maternity in the abstract to a mythological status. I am writing Just Deserts to discover an alternative vision of how a culture could transform from a retributive to a compassionate justice system.  As I imagine it, the turning point comes when Orestes seeks the help of The Furies to kill his mother …

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