King Theseus (Morocco Omari) is missing. Who will rule: young Prince Hippolytus (Anthony Fleming III) or his self-destructive stepmother, Queen Fedra (J. Nicole Brooks)? Vengeful goddess Afrodite (Tamberla Perry) forces Fedra to fall in love with Hippolytus, creating consequences when Theseus is found.
Brooks’ clunky adaptation of this Greek standard moves the story to a suddenly powerful, well-to-do Haiti yet that environment never influences the tale. The schizophrenic script vacillates wildly from classic form to bawdy slang. Brooks’ international shout-outs hamper the piece.
Thankfully, the performers rise above the script’s flaws to invest in the tragic tale. Omari brings the regal menace, Fleming balances cocky charm with poise and control and the double-cast Perry dazzles as a vicious deity and sassy lady in waiting. The ever-reliable Matt Hawkins’ fight choreography raises the stakes and Laura Eason’s direction avoids wallowing in exposition to breathe new life into an old story. (Lisa Buscani)
Fedra, Lookingglass Theatre Company, 821 N. Michigan, (312)337-0665, through November 15.