Mad Max meets ancient Attica in Hippolytos

Micheline Chevrier black and white

Theatre @ York propels the ancient Greek tragedy Hippolytos into a fervid post-apocalyptic world with a provocative new production opening tonight in the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre at York University.

Hippolytos runs nightly at 7:30pm until Saturday, Jan. 28. There are also two matinees – Jan. 25 and 27 at 1pm.

Micheline Chevrier As the goddesses Artemis and Aphrodite play out their wicked rivalry, the biggest losers are their human pawns. Acclaimed theatre artist Micheline Chevrier (left) directs Euripides’ powerful and timeless play, in the gripping translation by Canadian poet Anne Carson.

Hippolytos, King Theseus’ illegitimate son, has sworn to be chaste and refuses to worship the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Instead, he reveres Artemis, the virginal goddess of the hunt. Infuriated, Aphrodite swears vengeance and encourages Hippolytos’ stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him. Hippolytos resists the Phaedra’s advances, with dire consequences.

Pitting the beautiful, sensual Aphrodite against the austere and powerful Artemis, the play dramatizes the struggle that ensues when personal desire offends social propriety. 

For Chevrier, this is what makes Hippolytos as relevant today as when it was written almost 2,500 years ago.

“It grapples with the big issues: justice, honour, shame, family,” she says. “For centuries, we’ve A sketch of one of the play's costumes designe of a woman in a dressexplored these themes through art. Now, more than ever, they inform popular culture. Think of films such as Steve McQueen’s Shame, or TV series such as Game of Thrones, Dexter and Six Feet Under.”

A sketch of one of the play’s costumes designed by Alyssa Prigioniero

Above all, Chevrier says, the play resonates because it reflects a constant human endeavour: our desire to improve ourselves and the world through a better understanding of human nature.

Chevrier has worked in a wide range of professional theatres across the country, from major festivals to creation-based companies and from leading regional theatres to theatre for young audiences. Her directing credits include the Shaw Festival, National Arts Centre, Citadel Theatre and Manitoba Theatre Centre. She has served as associate artistic director at Theatre New Brunswick, associate dramaturge at Playwrights Workshop Montreal, associate artist at Canadian Stage in Toronto, and artistic director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa. Her honours include Calgary’s Betty Mitchell Award, Ottawa’s Capital Critics Circle Award, and Toronto’s Dora Mavor Moore Award.

In Hippolytos, Chevrier directs a lively young cast drawn from the Undergraduate Acting Conservatory in York’s Department of Theatre. A talented creative team of undergraduates is handling all aspects of the production design and execution.

Tickets cost $17, or for students and seniors $15. Tickets are available through the York University Box Office website or by calling 416-736-5888.