Last night I went to see ACT’s production of Phedre which had received many good reviews. I had a hard time following the play, to tell the truth. Racine must have written this a few centuries ago yet some older plays still hold up under modern audiences. Last night’s audience disappointed me. They laughed when no laughter was intended and it was usually at the expense of the main character, Phedre, an older woman who made the mistake of falling for a younger man.
As I listened to this tale of woe, I wondered if the play would have been more entertaining and less offensive if the roles had been reversed: that is, if a king had fallen for a step daughter and had lost everything in the long run for this folly. Then I understood that play would have never been written as it was not interesting or different. Men fall for younger women all the time. If they are rich or powerful, they usually get them for as long as they want them.
We women can be foolish particularly when we are young. We mistake money and power for strength and we sometimes choose it, believing our lives will be richer because we are attached to a man who has these attributes. We sometimes miss the knowledge that we will still be young when he is old. We will have energy and vitality and he will want to rest from life. We may miss being loved for our fine lines and I don’t mean those on our faces.
I think plays like Phedre shouldn’t be produced anymore. Why not remake them into something more interesting and less predictable. Make the heroine win! Make her get her younger lover as well as the throne! Make her the queen of all and the loser of nothing.
Now that would be a worthwhile play!