phaeton-300x300-catPhaeton, in this case, is a dramatic and allegorized version of the myth of Phaeton, the son of Apollo (which myth is already pretty allegorical).

This is the third production (though the first two were staged readings) I have seen by Taffety Punk in recent months that is based on a classical source of some kind (Shakespeare and the Bible, in the first cases).

What did I think? Excellent, enjoyable, and problematic. The play was written to sound explicitly like an English translation of an ancient Greek play, a la Sophocle, Aristophanes, etc. The program notes even said it was written in iambic pentameter (though I remember grasping a line in my head and the beats didn’t quite work out). For me, I would rather the playwright not have tried to write in the style of those great playwrights.

The titular Phaeton, in this case, is a secular, social justice reformer and his father (a disembodied voice, sometimes with the rest of the cast performing interpretative dance to embody him) an imperfect and non-omnipotent God, with a capital G, because the references to the Bible are frequent in the second act, so Apollo is definitely symbolic, representative, or whatever of a theistic, more or less Christian god.

Lines like (remembering as best I can), ‘You are my only son, with whom I well pleased,’ and phrases like ‘sacramental blood’ (after Phaeton dies) and ‘plagues of locusts’ drive the point him even further. Apollo is a flawed Christian God and Phaeton is his son, the Christ, but a less spiritual and more political messiah (not that Christ wasn’t highly political, because he was, but you get my point, I hope). There’s even a sort of ‘new,’ sacramental act at the end, which, while not physically resembling the Mass, is also referencing the Mass, in that it is reinforcing Phaeton’s Christ-like role.

A few laugh out loud lines in the first act, but I felt that the Greek model straitjacketed the first act and the Christological revisionism made the second act feel too detached from the first.

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