Spotlight: Dido, Queen of Carthage

Charles Leonard-Gorrill

Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare's who was killed after completing only half a dozen plays, spins a story (drawn from Virgil's Aeneid) set after the fall of Troy, in which brave Aeneas gets dragged into the machinations of the gods and finds himself in love with Queen Dido. Both of these characters are ancient-world superstars—they even talk about themselves in the third person—and their heated passion and conflict (after Cupid's interference, Dido wants Aeneas to stay, but he and his men are bound for Italy) fuel Marlowe's darkly humorous tale. Unfortunately those qualities are seen only in limited amounts in Theatre Pro Rata's production. Director Carin Bratlie and the company are able to pull out the humor and bring a fairly complex tale (when gods interfere, it usually is) to the stage with clear action. The main problem is that large chunks of Dido are flat and nearly lifeless. In occasional scenes and even stretches, the action picks up and the actors engage with the story (and one another) to give the play some lift. But it doesn't help that the relationship between Aeneas and Dido feels off. Neither Christopher Kehoe nor Becka Linder provide much spark, so their passion is mainly described in the script, not present onstage. Linder's halting delivery and stiff movements don't help. I'm not sure where that choice was headed, but it renders the character as dull as a dust ball and makes her final, tragic fate a relief: It means the play is over. $14-$41. 2400 University Ave., St. Paul; 612.874.9321. Through March 20

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