Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Phoenician Women at Natural Theatricals

By • Aug 12th, 2006 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of Natural Theatricals’ production of Phoenician Women [MP3 6:03 1.7MB].

Laura: Last night we saw the opening night performance of Natural Theatricals’ production of Phoenician Women, at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mike: Phoenician Women was written by Euripides, with this translation by Carl Mueller, directed by Bob Bartlett. This is the story of the sons of Oedipus. One has become the king of Thebes and the other, who is supposed to have his turn as king, is not getting his chance. He has gone out and has gotten an army. And he is marching on Thebes to get his kingship for the year. Of course the first brother is not going to have any of that, he wants to stay king. So Jocosta, their mother, tries to broker a peace between them. There is a short peace treaty. Unfortunately the peace that Jocosta tries to broker between the two brothers just can’t work because each brother refuses to budge from their views. At the end of the show you do have a classic greek tragedy with nearly everybody dying or being exiled ro not in better shape than they were when they started.

Laura: I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the performance last night. I was surprised. It was a really well done show, very character driven. It was easier to understand than I thought it would be. The plot was easy to follow. It was a very good show.

Mike: The first act, I thought was a little slow. They were giving a lot of background and a lot of talking. There isn’t a lot of action in this show. They talk about a lot of action, but everything is, “Well, there was a battle over here.” Then they talk about the battle. You’re not going to see any fighting. Even the last act’s battle scene between the brothers is told to us from someone who saw the battle telling it to Jocosta. That would have been fascinating if we could have been able to see the actual battle. But that wasn’t done. It was a little slow moving. The second act was definitely better than the first. Partially because you know what’s going on now. Unfortunately the second act did tend to go a little longer. The full set of scenes at the very end with Oedipus. That seemed to drag on a little bit. His sorrow and his decision with Antigone and what they were going to do. It felt like it went a little too long.

Laura: The role of Jocasta, who was Oedipus’s wife and mother was played by Cherie Weinert. She did a really good job. She had a really good stage presence, with a lot of emotion. You could see the emotion in her face over trying to help her two sons come to an agreement and not fight each other. A lot of the anguish in her face when things did not turn out he way she had hoped they would. I really liked her performance.

Mike: One performance I really liked was Kreon who was the brother of Jocasta. Kreon was played by John Tweel. He had a very impressive scene where he was told by the seer that his son, Menoikeus, would have to be sacrificed for the good of Thebes. That was a very impressive scene. He got very distraught over the news that he would have to sacrifice his son. He arranged to have Menoikeus sent elsewhere. Menoikeus said, “Ok.” Then, like a typical teenager disobeyed and said, “No, I’m going to sacrifice myself.” Later Kreon had a good scene when he carried in the body of Menoikeus.

Laura: The two sons, and brothers, of Oedipus were Polyneikes and Etokles. They were played by Trei Ramsey and Jason Nious. They did a really good job. It was an interesting contrast between the brothers. One of them had long hair. The other brother had no hair. I could see in the two of them the one brother wanting to make peace, to have his time as ruler over Thebes. The other brother wanting nothing to do with it since he had tasted what it was like to be king. He wasn’t willing to give it up. The scene between the two of them talking about, “Yeah, you’re my brother, but it ain’t gonna happen” I thought was a really well done and a very powerful scene.

Mike: The background sound in the show was very subtle and really quite well done. The sound was designed by Todd Edwards. It was using some sound effects and music based off of recordings by NASA of deep space. It was really nicely done and it definitely complimented the show, didn’t detract from it.

Laura: The set was simple. There were six blocks representing the walls of Thebes. They were nicely done. Other than the blocks, that was really it because again it was character driven. They talked about things and implied things, but didn’t show different sets.

Mike: We were expecting the costumes to be some variant of togas and that was a surprise. For the most part they used present day dress. Oedipus at the end was wearing a toga of some sort, but it worked for all the characters. The seer even used a modern day rubber tipped cane. But then when Oedipus came, he was wearing a toga. He also had a great makeup job to look blind. He had a tree branch as his cane. That was a very effective picture of him.

Laura: Phoenician Women is playing for the next three weeks, Thursday through Monday at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mike: Once you’ve seen the show, feel free to leave your thoughts about it here at We’d also like to invite you to join our mailing list. That way you can stay informed about shows that are happening in the DC Metro area. Simply go to

Laura: And now, on with the show.

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3 Responses »

  1. Laura and Mike,
    Just a little 411 on Greek tragedy…
    Because of the limitations of the stage when Greek tragedies were first being produced, all battles, sex scenes, and natural disasters took place off-stage, and a messenger came into report them. The director, Bob Bartlett, made a smart choice by having the messenger begin the story of the war between Polyneikes and Etokles, and then splitting the rest of the monologue between the brothers, and finally, Jocasta. If told by one person, lengthy monologues can be very redundant and long-winded (and a lot of pressure on the actor to memorize pages of dialogue) and it only makes sense for the brothers to be able to tell their own stories.

    Also, togas are generally identified with the Romans.


  2. Actually, I don’t believe that it was being a “typical teenager” that drove Creons’s son to decide to sacrafice himself. I got the strongest impression that Euripides portrayed a young man with a loyal and passionate love of country that he decided to do what he did. Menoikeus was not going to be stigmatized as a coward by running away to another country, and thus, made a decision that would emblazon in the minds of Theban citizens a young man who was brave and wlling to die for his country, thus lifting the curse that plagued Thebes. Finkelstein’s Menoikeus portrayed this quite well in the brief time he was on stage.

    In Greek theatre various characters gave a “history” or mythological background, if I may, as a point of departure for the audience to follow in understanding the progression of the play. Greek theatre demanded that its audience have good listening skills, as it is still the case to this day. The mythological background is often repeated by various characters in an ancient Greek play. Sometimes repetition is a good thing in a contemporary world where attention spans are short (smile). In “Phoenician Women” I welcomed that repetition because with a short attention span I was kept on track.

  3. Are the louvered window coverings that allow the amount of illumination entering a room know as Venetian blinds or Phoenician blinds? Despite the blindness of Oedipus the window coverings are know as Venetian blinds.