NCC Student Theatre presents “Phedre”
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media April 21, 2011 11:38AM
When: 7:30 p.m. April 28, 29 and 30 and at 2 p.m. May 1
Where: North Central College’s Madden Theatre, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
How much: $10; $8 student/senior
Contact: 630-637-7469 or northcentralcollege.edu/showtix
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Love, lust, lies and death collide in a new play at North Central College.
The theater department presents “Phedre” April 28 to May 1 in the Madden Theatre, directed by Carin Silkaitis, assistant professor of theater and theater department chair.
“Phedre” was written by French playwright Jean Baptiste Racine in 1677, based on the ancient Greek play “Hippolytus” by Euripides. It centers on the title character of the play, the wife of Theseus, king of Athens. The action is set at the royal court in Troezen, a town in southern Greece on the Peloponnesus peninsula. It’s all about Phedre’s forbidden love for her stepson, Hippolytus, and how she deals with it.
“It is a sad, sexy play,” Silkaitis said. “It is incredibly intense.”
The main character is Phedre, wife of King Theseus, who has been missing and is presumed dead. Phedre has a problem. Namely, she’s in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. (Oh yes, she did.) Hippolytus doesn’t know about this, nor does he care — he’s crazy in love with Aricia, but Theseus is bitter enemies with her whole family.
Queen Phedre meanwhile has made herself sick over her forbidden love for her stepson.
“I don’t see her as crazy. She’s being consumed, literally consumed, by her passion for her stepson, which she knows is wrong,” Silkaitis said. “It is considered incestuous at that time.”
When word comes that Theseus is dead, Phedre seizes her opportunity to confess her true feelings for Hippolytus.
“She throws herself at him, and it’s horrible to watch because he’s in love with someone else,” Silkaitis said. “He’s disgusted, and rightly so because she’s his stepmother, and runs out.”
Just when Phedre’s day couldn’t get any worse, Theseus returns. Before Hippolytus can tattle to Daddy, the nursemaid Oenone hatches a plan to help keep Phedre in the clear. She tells Theseus that Hippolytus raped Phedre, marking the king’s own son for a certain grim death.
Needless to say, tragedy ensues.
“The play is very intense,” she said. “There are very few laughs or light moments. There are no real (quiet) spaces. The play starts off in action. The characters never switch costumes; it all happens on the same day.”
Speaking of costumes, they are being created for the actors by Julane Sullivan of the All Dressed Up costume shop.
“They’re reminiscent of the Greek style, but more modern. It’s almost like Mediterranean beach wear … like really expensive resort wear,” Silkaitis said. “The girls wear these gorgeous dresses.”
She readily admits that a Greek tragedy isn’t the warm fuzziest of spring play choices, but knows her students need to be schooled in the classics, if only to expose them to the language.
“The big challenge for me has been giving these monologues — one is six pages long,” she said. “It’s more words than any of these young performers have ever tried to speak in their lives, and they’re really intense words. But getting young actors to do this is fun and exciting and challenging. They’re doing beautifully.”
She’s especially pleased with her Phedre, junior Alexis Ledbetter of Coal Valley.
“Ali has just gone for it, she’s really embraced the role,” Silkaitis said. “It’s a giant of a role. She’s amazing. I could not be more proud. She’s breathtaking to watch.”
Included in the cast are junior Harrison Ashley of Carol Stream as Theseus; junior Tanner Smale of Elkhart, Ind., as Hippolytus; junior Lauren Smith of Byron as Aricia; and sophomore Colleen O’Connor of Mesa, Ariz., as Oenone.