Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Phaedra(s) BAM Next Wave Festival 2016

Isabelle Huppert ends any discussion as to her place in the pantheon of all time  great actresses with PHAEDRA(S) which is playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music trough the weekend. How she dismantles three ties over the course of an evening is a feat that those of us who were there will be discussing for decades to come. Her performance is one of the must sees - ever. Period

The show itself is another matter.

The show is a triple telling of the story of Phaedra, queen of ancient Greece who married a kind and then had incestuous thoughts for her stepson which ends badly for pretty much everyone. Its a heavy story and despite the humor is a tough slog since the versions, especially the first two, are a little too similar for my taste. If I could have seen this over three nights- or at the very least broken up by two intermissions instead of one I think this would have played better. Diving from the first version into Sarah Kane's mind fuck of family dysfunction is a bit too much. Worse the similarities, especially in the first half of the show, reduce the character down just woman "burning" for her stepson instead of giving us greater resonances.

To be honest I have to say that some of my lack of love was due to some technical issues concerning my seat.  Sitting in the lower orchestra all the way to one side in row G I found that the extension of the walls of the set out past the proscenium effectively removed anything that happened on  one side of the stage unless I watched things in the mirror (when visible). It also removed anyone walking down stage left from my view so when Phaedra staggers down to the front of the stage toward the end of the second part I had no idea she was walking while the scene in her stepson's room continued on.

To be honest had I been seated center and back so I didn't have to choose to read the super-titles or watch the performance I would have liked it much more.

Still having Huppert break apart 20 feet in front of me was amazingly cool and the sort of thing you don't need words to move you in every possible way.

Recommended for Huppert's performance more than anything else, PHAEDRA(S) is still a kick in the ass.

(addendum- I have no idea where it would fit, but the use of  slow motion version the shower scene from PSYCHO as background for a seduction going off the rails is one of the more chilling things I've ever seen on stage- though the power gets lost 9th or 10th time through.)

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