Phedre: Passions Ignite and Chariots Burn at A.C.T.

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Greek passion is a fearsome thing. It can also be quite entertaining, especially when a guy two rows down whispers in a rather carrying tone, "Is this supposed to be funny?" (Yes.) Teasing humor from Phedre - the story of a father pitted against his angelic son by his straying queen, with all the ungoverned desire one would expect from a population ruled by whimsical gods - is the mark of people who are very good at what they do. It takes a few moments to sink into the world of verse and highly dramatic Greek princes, but when you do, it's quite a ride.

Paying homage to the lush poetry and crackling heat of Racine's original, this world premiere translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker (not Justin Timberlake, as I mistakenly thought for one brief, shining moment) is a compelling mix of Greek tragedy, French corsets, and resonant experimental music by David Lang. Seana McKenna brings finely-nuanced classical chops to the title role of a woman who, torn between duty and something darker, leverages her misery into the instrument of others' suffering and thus brings about her own demise. How's that for karma?

 

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