You don’t have to travel to London’s National Theatre to see Helen Mirren in Phedre. Nicholas Hytner’s staging of Racine’s verse tragedy–based on the Greek myth that also inspired Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms–will be shown at Steppenwolf Theatre.
Although not exactly onstage.
The exclusive showing is the pilot presentation of NT Live, a new initiative by the National to broadcast its theatrical productions around the world. The National’s Phedre will be filmed in HD during a live performance on June 25 and broadcast via satellite to more than 200 movie theaters and performing arts venues worldwide. Steppenwolf, along with several other arts venues, will re-broadcast the film two weeks later. For American audiences who know Mirren mainly from her TV and film work (Prime Suspect, The Queen), the chance to see her tackle a classical role onstage is a rare and exciting opportunity. Racine’s Phedre–a queen who conceives an all-consuming passion for her stepson–is one of the greatest and most challenging female roles in all of western drama.
Employing an English adaptation by Ted Hughes, the production also features Margaret Tyzack, one of Britain’s most highly esteemed actresses, and Dominic Cooper, who appeared in Hytner’s West End, Broadway, and film versions of Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys. “After bringing Steppenwolf’s hit play August: Osage County to UK audiences at the National this past winter, we are happy to share the National’s prestigious work with our theatergoers here in Chicago,” says Steppenwolf artistic director Martha Lavey. Mon, 7/13, 7:30 PM, Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650, steppenwolf.org, $20.