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"YOU MUST make your movements and expressions be heard through your voice," I was once told while making a record. Robert Edgar's staged reading of Euripides' Hippolytus has this same goal. In place of the wildly-choreographed and colorfully-masked visual spectacle of traditional staging, Edgar presents uncostumed characters at lecterns. Yet Euripides' compassion for the plight of mortal helplessness can often be felt through the voices of this cast.
Sheila Hart (Phaedra) speaks with bewildered and frightened passion as the queen who lusts for her son Hippolytus. She commands such respect with each word that her accusingly harsh "Wicked!" to her Nurse seems to damn her for eternity. When she cries "Women, stop speaking!", they dare not speak. And when she predicts her fate, Death!", I feared for her very existence. Miss Hart overcome the awkward hand gestures devised by the director by using her face and the slightest turn of her head to convey the deepest emotion.
David Richardson, as Hippolytus, uses changes in volume and tempo as a substitute for the frenzied emotionality of his character. The emotional pitch of his speeches never varies from the time he learns of his mother's love until his father orders his death.
Euripides' deep love of nature is vivid in the female chorus' delivery of his lyrical verse. But while the chorus blend their voices will when speaking in small groups, their attempts at unison are often meaningless and ragged.
Although Edgar has lost much of the power and the energy of Hippolytus as it was written to be performed, Euripides' sympathy for human misfortune is clearly there. To see it, go to Dunster House--and listen.
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