BACCHAE by Euripides, directed by Daniel Brooks, with Claudio J. Chiodo, Marc Tellez, Evert Houston Blouin, Tyler Krüspe and Sandra Rodrigues. Presented by the UC Drama Program at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George). Runs to February 9, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm. 416-978-1505. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
"never doubt the divine" is euri-pides's message in Bacchae. But for today's audiences, the more pertinent reading might be "Don't ignore the female and the passionate in human nature or society."The piece presents a fascinating battle between Greek cousins. Stubborn, rational king Pentheus refuses to recognize the divinity of Dionysus, the son of Zeus, and pays a bloody price.
Director Daniel Brooks, working with students in the UC Drama Program, presents a cool but intense reading to the tale -- which includes mention of Nova Scotia and some Taiwanese translation by chorus member Zoe Huang -- on set designer Astrid Janson's triangle of earth, strikingly lit by Peter Freund.
The actors speak most of their lines, as well as the stage directions, neutrally to the audience rather than to each other, and at first Dionysus (Claudio C. Chiodo) comes across only as a black-garbed, angry young man. But his interactions with Pentheus (Marc Tellez) begin to sizzle erotically as he first sits between Pentheus's legs and later manipulates the voyeuristic ruler, now dressed as a woman, like a doomed puppet.
Not all the other performances are as strong, but Brooks nicely captures the ritualistic sense of the action and makes the audience feel like participants in it.