It is one thing to be captivated or even moved by theater. Yet, to be excited or energized are experiences far more rare. These are reactions spurred from witnessing originality and fearlessness. Dedicated to locating “the root of courage,” Cor Theatre continues its trailblazing work with Michel Marc Bouchard’s “Christina, The Girl King.” In the hands of this gifted and brave collection of artists, this true-life struggle against the oppressive forces of religion and patriarchy comes to life with poetry, passion and polemics.
“Christina, The Girl King” dissects the space between what a person is called and what they truly are. For the protagonist that means she is “queen,” “Lutheran,” “philosopher” and “virgin.” It also means she is simply “Christina.” As obsessed as this play is with the incendiary topic of identity politics, it is foremost a deeply personal story. These are not the over-dramatized, archetypal historical personages we are accustomed to seeing on stage. They are real people: messy, contradictory and incomplete.
To complement this complex portrait of royalty, Cor offers an equally and appropriately messy production. Bouchard’s play is full of Shakespearean histrionics, both comic and tragic. Rather than tone down the melodrama for the intimacy of The Frontier space, director Tosha Fowler keeps it in tact. “It is boldly audacious,” Laura Resinger’s Ebba Sparre says of a dress she’s been gifted by Queen Christina (Toya Turner). As an observation, it brilliantly reflects Fowler’s approach to this material, which skirts current theatrical fashions while simultaneously capturing what this nascent theater company does so well.
Throughout the play, Christina is driven to locate the physical manifestation of her soul, the very thing that causes her to stray from the apparently preordained course of her nobility. Through her examination of her own impulses, she comes to discover that she is free, to a point. From the prison of patriarchy, yes. But from the unpredictability of her desires? Bouchard and Fowler leave the question of Christina’s control over the “ravages of love” unanswered. In doing so, they encourage us to ponder just how free we are and just how free we really want to be. (Kevin Greene)
Cor Theatre at The Frontier, 1006 West Thorndale, (866)811-4111, cortheatre.org, $10-$25. Through April 9.