Drama Talk & Drinks: Phèdre – “where the hell did she come from!”

We’ve been loving Cutting Ball Theater recently and their “radical re-visionings of classic works”. When we found out they had a new production of Phèdre, the classic Greek tragedy about the perils of unrequited love for your stepson, opening we knew it was time for a night of drama talk and drinks.


Brittany: Cutting Ball is very good at making classic plays approachable. These actors did a great job tackling dense language and making it, at least for me, very understandable. I kinda know Greek mythology but certainly don’t remember it well, and I appreciate how clear they made a very complicated story.

Katie: I struggle with Greek plays. Theseus, Hippolytus, Hercules… all the names and the intersecting myths and back stories. It’s so confusing, and as you said the language is dense. I think Phèdre (Courtney Walsh) did the best job at normalizing the language. She was SO good. But I still found it hard. I’ve seen other shows at Cutting Ball that I’ve liked better. This just didn’t feel as inventive as usual. The only thing that looked fresh were the costumes, and even then I didn’t understand they were from the 50’s.

B: Yeah, they didn’t really do anything with that time period.

K: Yeah, so why even make their outfits 50’s? Why not make it nondescript. So I wasn’t a fan of the 50’s theme, it didn’t work for me. There wasn’t much to the sound or lighting design. The set was clean, and simple and I liked the sky projected thing over the center of the stage. But It just wasn’t as interesting as other Cutting Ball shows I’ve seen.

B: I’m kinda in the same place, mostly because I don’t always love Greek tragedies. The setting it in the 50s for no reason got to me too. But, Phèdre was just amazing, incredibly talented. You should see the show just to see her performance, it’s fantastic.

K: Right! I was like where the hell did she come from!

B: For a play that could be really deadly, corny pun intended, the actors made it come to life.

K: I just feel that for the non theater goer/lover this show didn’t have as much of a cool factor as the other shows we’ve seen them do.

B: I agree with that, I think if you want to see Phèdre, or you like Greek tragedies then you should totally go see this. If you are someone who is not a theater goer…

K: This would be rough.

B: It is a hard play, and although a very solid production, it may not be what everyone wants to see.

The Verdict: Do you like Greek tragedies? Go! Like theater enough to wade through some dense language with a powerful female actor? Go! Otherwise this may be one you want to skip.

The Drama Talk: Cutting Ball reliably delivers fresh takes on classic theater. Their season is full of powerful, perhaps misunderstood, female characters who are chafing at the confines of society. In Phèdre, Courtney Walsh presents a compelling portrayal of a women grasping for the things she wants in the only ways she knows how, to tragic results. It’s a very heavy play, both because of the weighty language and impending doom. While Cutting Ball has a bright set and fun 50s costumes to lighten things up a bit, it’s not really clear why it’s set in that era and the staging isn’t as inventive as we’ve seen in Cutting Ball productions in the past. Greek tragedies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a strong cast, and worth a watch if you’re a theater lover.

The Drinks: We have noticed that hotel bars are really making a comeback. After this show we headed a block up Taylor to the 6 week old Douglas Room, which is part of the Tilden hotel. It had a really chill atmosphere and sassy strong cocktails, which was a good combo after the intense Greek tragedy.

Phèdre runs through May 21st at the The EXIT on Taylor. Tickets are $15-$45 and can be purchased on the Cutting Ball website.

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