“Phaedra’s Love,” performed by the Knox Department of Theatre on Friday and Saturday night, was offensive to me as a Catholic.
The play was written by Sarah Kane, a provocative English playwright. She wanted to give Seneca’s play “Phaedra” a contemporary twist. However, as an audience member, that modern twist was over the top.
I never would have expected a Catholic priest performing oral sex on Hippolytus, the lead role. Yes, I understand that the oral sex symbolized the priest’s submission to Hippolytus, but couldn’t this have been performed in a less offensive way?
The play itself was very well performed. The acting was spot-on. I just wish that the time and talent of the Knox Theater program was spent on a less grotesque play. For example “The Lover,” directed by Nellie Ognacevic, was provocative and well developed. Its point, however controversial, was powerfully conveyed without resorting to religious discrimination.
The Catholic Church’s image has been tainted with an over-sexualized representation. My concern is that “Phaedra’s Love” continues to feed into this disturbing depiction. Catholicism is much more than that.
The Catholic Church is one of the largest charitable institutions in the world. According to Forbes, the Catholic Charities USA in 2008 gave $3.8 billion for charitable purposes (http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/14/charity-09_Catholic-Charities-USA_CH0030.html). I have personally seen the Catholic Church’s effect in low income communities through local food pantries. This is what Catholicism truly is.
In fact, Pope Benedict XVI addressed these institutional issues. For example he has traveled to countries such as Ireland, Australia and the United States to apologize for the recent pedophilia cases. This is a show of progress. The Catholic Church is moving on, and we should too.
My concern is that “Phaedra’s Love” promotes a distorted view of Catholicism. As the biggest religious institution that affects the daily lives of billions, the Catholic Church cannot be restricted to the acts of a few misguided priests, like the character in the play. To those who are non-Catholics and perhaps not religious at all, put yourself in my shoes. My faith is pivotal to me, and I do believe that I have to defend it. And it does not stop at Catholicism. Every faith deserves respect and an accurate adaptation in society.