HIPPOLYTUS, Janus Theatre, at North School Park Amphitheatre. If academics call Euripides the father of psychological realism, it's because his characters are a bit more three-dimensional and regular-guyish than those of other Greek tragedians. But Janus Theatre director Terence Domschke seems to believe that Euripides' Hippolytus, a highly stylized saga of Queen Phaedra's love for her stepson, is kitchen-sink naturalism in togas. Ignoring the poetry and pageantry save for a few perfunctory processional moments, Domschke keeps his lead actors howling in unmodulated anguish for 90 minutes while an overstimulated chorus wanders about emoting with all the subtlety of unmedicated schizophrenics.
A few moments of thoughtful quiet would have gone a long way toward making sense of this ancient drama. And in addition to varying the pace, tone, and emotion of this production, the director needs to acknowledge the text's artifice, especially since this is an outdoor performance in a tiny park amphitheater: a thousand distractions repudiate every "realistic" moment. No matter how sternly the actors scowl or how loudly they shout (and keeping their voices for three weekends seems unlikely), any passing airplane, automobile, or derisive teenager instantly destroys the unconvincing fantasy of this staging. --Justin Hayford