Three and a half stars

Butler University Theatre, Lilly Hall Studio Theatre; Directed by John Green.

With the Butler theater season running under the banner “Out of the Box,” I wondered Thursday night if I could match wits with Indy’s best for two uninterrupted hours. As usual, director John Green made me think. With Phedre (a Greek tragedy retold by a 17th century French dramatist, translated by a famous modern British poet), Green reminds us that contemporary theater is not “out” of the box and classical theatre is not necessarily “in.” With each production, audiences drag their own boxes. My box told me that Greek tragedy is the severest form of soap opera, in which gods play puppets with mortals. Phedre, Queen of Athens, is racked by lust for her stepson Hippolytus, who is jazzed by Aricia, the one woman who is forbidden by the king to have any man. The players heave, pant and spit with their love, shame, and fury. If the scenery was more than one gigantic marble-esque staircase, the players would gnaw on it. Major events happen offstage, to be explained later ad infinitum by minor characters. My box craves realism and human-sized emotions. But I am visiting a different box and it has plenty to say about my box. It even makes me eager to see Phaedra’s Love, Sarah Kane’s urban retelling that will be tackled by the same cast later this month. Through Oct. 12; 940-9822.

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