Um, This Box Is Baroque

Aeneas is quite the literary hero. You may remember him as one of the few survivors of Troy, a city that goes to hell when the Greeks hole up in a big wooden horse and pay a surprise visit to the snoozing Trojans. In desperate need to relocate an entire kingdom, Aeneas sets off on a voyage and eventually finds a little place called Rome. It's a pretty epic story. So how best to retell this expansive tale? How 'bout a four-foot by five-foot wooden box?

That's the approach Theatre Collide is taking with Dido and Aeneas, their new show that's part "compact opera" and part puppet show. It's a retelling of Henry Purcell's baroque 1689 opera, which in turn is based on Virgil's Aeneid. In Virgil's story, the shipwrecked Aeneas meets Dido (the queen of Carthage, not the cute British singer) and the two fall in lusty love. Ah, but Purcell's version brings a dark, mystical element: a wicked sorceress who can't wait to screw things up for our lovers. (It seems Purcell was going for baroque.) Theatre Collide, in turn, has opted to tell this story using the Victorian toy theater method — figurines in a wooden box — and by using puppets to portray Aeneas and Dido.

Two operatic soloists will sing the story while the puppets engage in the sweeping tale of love, murder and mermaids inside the box (an art deco-inspired "cabinet of curiosities") and its numerous chambers. "The performance space is actually quite large, but the audience's attention will be focused on this small box," says Theatre Collide's Troy Scheid. Sounds interesting, Troy, but really, who ever heard of people staring at a box for entertainment?
Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: March 17. Continues through March 26


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