Singing the blues in TheatreWorks’ bumpy Clementine

Clementine 1
Jack Koenig (left) is Jaffy, Laiona Michelle is his wife, Clementine, and Matt Jones is their son, Reggie, in the world premiere of Clementine in the Lower 9, an adaptation of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon at TheatreWorks in Mountain View. Photo by Mark Kitaoka

In this week’s edition of the Palo Alto Weekly I reviewed the world premiere of Clementine in the Lower 9 at TheatreWorks.

You can read the review here

Here are some excerpts:

If you didn’t know about this world-premiere play’s Greek roots, it could seem a strangely formal tale set amid the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Why, for instance, would a young junkie named Cassy, supposedly gifted with prophecy, be possessed by the god Apollo? And why would a highly intelligent woman celebrate the return of her husband by lighting candles all over the roof of her badly flood-damaged home in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, thus turning it into an incredible fire hazard?

Both of those elements — Cassandra and the lighting of a welcome beacon — are from the Greek but seem odd here.

It seems almost law that any story set in New Orleans has to include jazz music, and that law is effectively adhered to here. At first the music, composed by Justin Ellington, sets the scene and allows Brawner to sing some bluesy tunes. As the play progresses, the music becomes essential to the story. Especially important is a five-finger piano exercise that becomes a haunting refrain, allowing us to forget the battle between ancient and modern and connecting us to the heart of a family in trouble.


Dan Dietz’s Clementine in the Lower 9, a TheatreWorks production, continues through Oct. 30 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. Tickets are $19-$69. Call 650-463-1960 or visit

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