Last night the classic French tragedy, Phèdre, opened at the American Conservatory Theater. The streets of San Francisco were slick from the rain that occasionally pelted down. Considering the material at hand, it was the perfect backdrop for the evening. Carey Perloff, the ACT artistic director and also director of this production, is not one to shy away from challenging material. Phèdre, first performed in 1677, is another example of the potential reward we all benefit from this artistic risk taking.

Phedre at ACTPerloff brings the play to the Bay Area in association with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Ontario, Canada. Star Seana McKenna, who plays Phèdre, makes her West Coast debut in this show. I admit, a certain amount of Canadian pride rumbled as I watched.

It was quite the evening. As the ACT describes the show on their web site, it’s “a potent mix of rich poetry, political intrigue, and sexual jealousy.”

But my favorite quote comes from Perloff herself:

“Because Phèdre is a French classical play that makes reference to ancient Greek characters and gods, it lives in a kind of timeless erotic zone that fuses many worlds; the most important thing is that the playing space is a dangerous crossroads, a magnet where violently opposed characters collide and erupt.”

See what we think about the show in this On Location video, and what it’s like to enjoy an evening of classic theater at the grand American Conservatory Theater on Geary Street. The full review will be up soon… if only Neptune will grant that power.