Reimagining a classic play must start with a scholar’s respectful awareness of the past. It is just the opposite of injecting a quick fix of topical politics. And yet such a task must involve, at some level, a consideration of recent history and the nature of human relationships in our time. Two wondrously successful strategies of reimagination—one profound, one not so profound yet vigorous and valid—have lately been at work in productions in Paris and London.

In Paris, Ariane Mnouchkine and her company, called Le Théâtre du Soleil, have undertaken to stage four Greek tragedies, each play on a separate evening. By this fall, all four will be in repertory. Only three were on in late May and June, when I was there, and I was able to get tickets to but one—and that thanks solely to a metro and bus strike that led to numerous no-shows....


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