LA MAMA ETC | Pasolini’s PYLADE + Ivica Buljan = The Best Play of the New York Season


PYLADE runs Thursday, December 3 — Friday, December 18, 2015, playing Thursdays - Saturdays at 7pm; Sundays at 4pm.

Tickets $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors; 10 tickets priced at $10 are available for every performances as part of La MaMa’s 10@$10 ticketing initiative (advance sales only).  For tickets go to or call 646-430-5374.

The Ellen Stewart Theatre is located at 66 East 4th Street (between Bowery and Second Avenue), New York, NY 10003.

La MaMa E.T.C., NEW YORK CITY |  Pier Paolo Pasolini’s PYLADE, as astonishingly staged by the Croatian stage director Ivica Buljan and La MaMa’s Great Jones Repertory Company (GJRC), is quite simply the theatrical event of the 2015–2016 New York theater season.

Woe unto you if you have not seen it.

To fully come to grips with the multifaceted magnitude of La MaMa’s PYLADE — it opened December 3 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre where it will perform through Friday, December 18 — we will have to enumerate the varied reasons.

Let’s start with the facts. PYLADE — a play by the late, celebrated Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini — is only now enjoying its U.S. premiere 40 years after the author’s murder.  Some of us have become familiar with the political conspiracy theories that surround his death (allegedly Pasolini was killed by a male prostitute in November, 1975).  Literary types will be familiar with Pasolini as a poet, novelist, journalist, actor and controversial political figure.

Pasolini remains unknown as a playwright, and GJRC’s American debut of PYLADE acquaints us with one of six little-known plays written by Pasolini.

Marko Mandic (center) and Great Jones Repertory Company in PYLADE

Marko Mandic (center) and Great Jones Repertory Company in PYLADE

The U.S. is not alone though.  The reception of Pasolini in Eastern Europe, for example, has been a relatively recent phenomenon.  It began chiefly after the fall of the Soviet bloc, and one which assumes greater prominence after 2000. Before the 1990s, there were few examples of works by Pasolini, whether in the form of publication or performance, and those mainly confined to the major cities such as Warsaw and Krakow.

At this point, we must turn to Pasolini’s radicalism. He expressed controversial views on fascism, Catholicism, homosexuality and capitalism. For example, in an interview in L’Espresso magazine shortly before his murder, Pasolini spoke about his favorite theme, “I consider consumerism to be a worse form of fascism than the classic variety.”

Enter PYLADE, where Pasolini imagines a continuation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia and ends with Pylades’s long curse against Athena as the symbol of reason inextricably complicit with power, be it fascist, communist, or capitalist. The play dramatizes Pasolino’s scandal of self-contradictions.  Abjuring reason identified with bourgeois rationalism and all the ills of contemporary neo-capitalism is certainly a central point of the whole play.

“The ‘re-construction’ of democracy was of principal interest to Pasolini,” says Ivica Buljan, director of the Croatian National Theatre and auteur extraordinaire.  PYLADE rams straight to the jugular when dealing when dealing with the ramparts of democracy, consumerism, and the struggle for real social change.

Why PYLADE?  Why Pasolini in 2015?

A day or so after the December 3 opening night at La MaMa E.T.C., Buljan tells me: “Passolini’s Pylade is a modern tragedy of anthropological revolution. The play emphasizes a ‘religion’ of consumption, and a new cultural and social model that is rooted in mass-mentality.

“Pasolini’s starting point for Pylade is Aeschylus’s Oresteia, and a fascination with the character of Athena, in particular. Athena, the Greek goddess of reason, established the first human court and founded the polis—she marks the transition from the old Mediterranean civilization to a new matriarchal-patriarchal civilization.

“Athena intrigued Pasolini because of the metamorphosis of values she represents. So, in 1966, when he began writing this tragedy in verse, he rendered it as a politico-fantastic continuation of the Oresteia, and centered it on the idea of renewal—of social norms, political structures, and religious beliefs.

“With Pylade, Pasolini celebrates the birth of the first human court and, at the same time, refers to the violent transformations through which contemporary society was founded. His characters counterpoint each other with their different values. Electra embodies a commitment to tradition and is inexorably bound to the idea of disappearance and transmutation.

“Orestes and Athena, on the other hand, symbolize new institutions. Orestes’s equation with Pylade blatantly articulates Pasolini’s interest in these cultural paradigm shifts. Pyalde helps Orestes avenge his father, Agamemnon, by killing his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. Pylade, however — even though he is Orestes’ friend — soon becomes an enemy. He clashes with Orestes’s progressive ideals, as he grows torn between remaining loyal to the bourgeois world and adopting revolutionary ideology.

Tundé Sho and Marko Mandić star in Pier Paolo Pasolini's PYLADE

Tundé Sho and Marko Mandić star in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s PYLADE

“Pylades and Orestes mark two sides of revolution. Orestes stands on right of the revolution (Pasolini’s allegory to the Soviet revolution), and Pylades on the left (which we can compare to the Chinese revolution). Here, Pasolini questions the relation between intellectuals and people, and eventually makes a pessimistic conclusion about any collaboration between leaders and masses.

“The slogan “Gettare it proprio corpo nella lotta” (“Throw his body into the fight”) resounds with Pasolini’s emphasis on the inextricability of artistic creation from political project. Pasolini repeatedly protested against writers who wanted to innovate only in the sphere of literature. Throughout his life he opposed conceptual literary creation.

“For Pasolini, then, this work sits at the heart of a contested and active history. All of Pasolini’s cinema and theatre writings were really shocking, but they present a very complex vision of humanity, of human cruelty and of power.

“The whole project was complex enough to make that cruelty intelligent and bearable. Some people accused me of useless nudity in Pylade — I guess because parts of the sexual scenes were closer to real sex as opposed to how you would see it in most theatre plays.”

One single post is never going to be enough to extol the scabrous animality and hyper-sexualized beauty of this PYLADE.

Seeing it once is not even a true option.  You have to return to it again in order to fully extoll its hard-core politico-sensationalism.

Re-visit this space for more about the Great Jones Repertory Company’s thrilling PYLADE. For now, run, La MaMa friend. Go! — randy,


About Randy Gener | is a NYC-based production, event and media project devoted to U.S. news, foreign diplomacy, cultural issues, innovative art projects and journalism in the public interest. Learn more about the proprietor at


  1. Pingback: THE KNICK’S Perry Yung, Marko Mandi, Mia Yoo, Eugene Chai, Tunde Sho and more set for U.S. Premiere of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s PYLADE at La MaMa, Dec. 3 -18 | Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

  2. Pingback: Pylade | La MaMa

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