Northern Light Theatre kicks off its new season with a call back to one of its first
By Cory Schachtel | October 4, 2023
If you’re familiar with Northern Light Theatre, you know its productions can get weird, in a really good way (we recall an awesomely-harrowing play last year that talked a lot about blood). But to start this season, Artistic Director Trevor Schmidt wanted something a bit more family-friendly.
“It’s like a meet-cute in a crypt!” he says about Christopher Fry’s A Phoenix Too Frequent, which tells the tale of a young widow in ancient Greece whose husband has died and she has entombed herself in the crypt with her maid, so that they will both starve to death and she can join her husband in the underworld of Hades. The “meet-cute” comes when a neighbouring soldier, who is guarding some bodies hanging from a tree outside the crypt, sees the light flickering in the tomb.
“He comes down the stairs into the underground and immediately falls in love with her. He’s struck by her loyalty and her devotion and starts to woo her. And she becomes very conflicted because she finds herself attracted to him, and she’s being ultimately encouraged and discouraged by her maid, who’s kind of a common, vulgar, woman of the people.”
The original show ran in London 1946, and Northern Light Theatre first ran it here in 1978, but even if you managed to catch it then (and can miraculously recall the performance today), this run will look different. “This time, our take is like the sword and sandals Biblical movies from the late ’40s, early ’50s — The Ten Commandments or Spartacus, with Greek costumes, and the women all have bullet bras and beehives. So it’s that kind of aesthetic, but with the colour palette of Beetlejuice.”
Schmidt says it’s a change of pace for Northern Light in that it’s a sweet, little romantic comedy that gets tied up quite nicely. “You’re not going to walk out feeling sick to your stomach, like a lot of Northern Light shows, which can sometimes leave you conflicted about things — the next play is about internalized rage in someone who’s in denial, and the last show is about a young brother and sister trying to catch a serial killer. For this one, you can leave your morals at the door.”