By Molly Grosskreutz
It may be over 2,000 years old, but Euripides’s “Hippolytus” is a story that remains as relevant today as when it first debuted in 428 B.C. The Viterbo Theatre Department put on the show as their last major production of the year. According to the Fine Arts Center web page, “Hippolytus” is “a tale of unrequited love and obsession.”
The play opens when the goddess of love, Aphrodite, vows to punish the young and chaste Hippolytus for ignoring her advances in favor of Artemis, the innocent goddess of the hunt. To get revenge, Aphrodite forces Phaedra, Hippolytus’s stepmother, to fall in love with him.
Throughout the play, Phaedra struggles to reconcile her shameful and inappropriate feelings with her responsibilties to her husband King Theseus, Hippolytus’s father. Hippolytus finds out about Phaedra’s feelings, and being the chaste and wholesome man he is, he is infuriated.
Knowing she has been discovered, Phaedra hangs herself. When Theseus realizes his wife is dead, he finds a suicide note saying that Hippolytus is to blame for her death, and assumes Hippolytus raped her.
As the king, Theseus condemns his son to exile, resulting in a chariot accident and Hippolytus’s eventual death.
Viterbo’s production of the play was directed by David Gardiner. The show ran the last two weekends of April for a total of five performances at the La Croix Black Box Theatre.
Katey Slinger, a freshman theatre major, played one of the chorus women.
During an interview with Lumen, Slinger expressed how the role challenged her. “The method of acting we used for ‘Hippolytus’ was a totally different acting style than realism,” Slinger said. “The dialogue is really heightened, so it was a challenge to still make it meaningful.”
Slinger also noted that she felt privileged working with the upperclassmen cast members.
Gardiner is pleased with how the show turned out. “The play is such heavy lifting in terms of what it calls upon the actors to do,” Gardiner explained, “but it’s exciting to do because it’s so theatrical in a lot of ways.”
Though the play is challenging, Gardiner is happy “Hippolytus” was chosen for the last major performance of the season. Why not choose a more contemporary play? “Going back to the roots is a good thing from time to time,” Gardiner said.