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Tyne Daly feels motherly in Getty Villa's 'Agamemnon'

September 18, 2008 |  4:16 am

Tyne Daly You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the emotions that Tyne Daly’s infuriated queen mom harbors for her lying, murderous hubby in the Getty Villa presentation of “Agamemnon.”

Horror and pain fuse into a look of pure venom after Delroy Lindo’s kingly title character tricks Clytaemnestra into delivering their oldest daughter, Iphigenia, to what he says will be her wedding but turns out to be a human sacrifice. Daly’s daughter, Kathryne Dora Brown, portrays Iphigenia. So during the killing’s enactment, fuel is being thrown onto Daly’s fire. 

“It’s not an easy thing, even in dumb show, to see her get hacked up,” Daly said of watching what happens to her middle daughter at each performance. “Does it set me up for playing revenge and betrayal? Sure, it does.”

The connection affects Brown as well, though she’s not supposed to show it. “It is unbelievably overwhelming and touching to hear my mom going through that death scene,” Brown said. “I’m lying there, dead, with my eyes closed, and I start tearing up.”

In Aeschylus' 458 BC text, Iphigenia is only spoken about, but in the Getty presentation, director Stephen Wadsworth puts her onstage to help enact this epic family tragedy. Much of the time, she is a ghostly presence, haunting the Mycenaean palace as Clytaemnestra plots revenge on her husband. He's in for it, all right, and all because he needed help from a goddess, who demanded the sacrifice in return for favorable winds to carry his ships to war.

The play deals in “grand, huge feelings,” Daly said by phone during a recent day off. Channeling those feelings can be pretty draining, but before and after each performance, Brown’s offhand humor helps to lighten the mood, Daly says. “My favorite sound in all the world is she and her sisters laughing together.” (In the show’s playbill, Daly gives a shout out to all three of them.)

Daly and Brown previously portrayed mother and daughter in the 2001 CBS movie “The Wedding Dress,” and Brown made several appearances on Daly’s CBS series “Judging Amy,” although their characters moved in different circles.

Despite being put through an emotional spin cycle at each performance of “Agamemnon,” Brown finds comfort while onstage. “It’s nice to look over and see my mom,” she said. “A lot of people don’t get to experience that, unless you’re one of the Bridges. Or a Barrymore or a Paltrow.”

All well and good, but the big question is: Should Lindo be worried about that look in his costar’s eyes? “It’s all acting,” Daly said, laughing.

Performances of “Agamemnon,” long since sold out, continue through Sept. 27.

-- Daryl H. Miller

Photo caption: Tyne Daly, as Clytaemnestra, reacts to the sacrifice of her daughter, played by real-life daughter Kathryne Dora Brown. Photo credit: Craig Schwartz / J. Paul Getty Trust