Playwright Spence Porter doesn't like the ending of Euripides' "Hippolytus." In fact, he says the reconciliation of gods and humans "ticks him off," so he wrote a response to the 1,000-year-old classic that paints the gods as petty and indifferent and human beings as powerless.
"The central image is human beings caught in the crossfire of the gods," said Porter, who is in town to watch the production. By "gods" Porter means any force against which human beings are powerless to act.Porter's "Hippolytus" is the opposite of empowering, which makes it rather annoying to sit through. Unlike Beckett, who also dealt with humans' powerlessness, Porter doesn't make a strong enough connection to modern man to engage the audience.
The play produces a superficial frustration with "the gods" and a thankfulness most don't believe in such things in modern society.
An absurdist play with the gall to respond angrily to Euripides seems a natural choice for the folks at Plan-B Theater Company, who seem to enjoy their status as a struggling company as much as their fetish for masks. While "experimental" art is a noble thing, it can also be a "mask" for lack of talent.
Plan-B does not have a shortage of talent, which makes their self-consciously esoteric choice of material rather puzzling. Lynn Petersen turns in competent, clear performances as Aphrodite, the Nurse and Theseus, the latter being his most powerful. Robert Bogue is real as the just Hippolytus, and his ultimate grief is palpable. Five chorus members prance about the stage, using some interesting poetic techniques and extremely suggestive movements.
Their movements were not half as suggestive as Skye Myers' movements as Lysippa, which get downright nasty in places. Although excessive, Lysippa only stays on stage for a few moments, so she doesn't distract much from the main thrust of the play. Meyers is better as Phaedra and positively brilliant in her brief monologue as Artemis at the end of the play.
Porter's script only specifies a "jazz combo," but Plan-B chose to play recognizable tunes at different times during the play. These included "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "Spinning Wheel," "The Impossible Dream" and others, which made a clever commentary on the action. At the end of the play, the music commented on the fatalistic theme with a chilling rendition of "Que Sera, Sera."
- Sensitivity rating: Sexual themes, innuendo and movements, drug innuendo, one glaring obscenity.