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Nero (Another Golden Rome)  

A startling reminder of the devastation that can result from unchecked government

Wednesday, Mar 15 2006
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Early in the second act, when it's clear everything in Rome is going to hell, actor Andrew Hurteau (as Nero's charismatic narrator, Boccaccio) states that "even the gravest devastation ... can be turned by the leader of the nation under siege to his own advantage ... into moments of theater he can star in." This world premiere, written by Steven Sater and developed at the Magic Theatre, presents a modernist take on the delicious and decadent source material of Nero, the Roman party-boy emperor who had an Oedipal relationship with his mom, slept with "humpbacked midgets," and famously played the fiddle as his empire burned -- an intentional and frightening allegory about our current administration. This ambitious production -- helmed by Beth F. Milles, scored with songs by Grammy-nominated Duncan Sheik, and staged on an impressive deconstructionist set by Melpomene Katakalos -- briefly stumbles out of the gate in a first act clogged with too much stilted narration and strangely stylized acting, then settles into a solid and powerful night of theater as we witness the inner workings and betrayals of an empire in steep decline. Sater's script depicts Nero (Drew Hirshfield), who first appears in drag (well, he is the nephew of the decadent Caligula), as the political puppet of his mother (Catherine Smitko) and his adviser Seneca (David Cramer); the play is a startling reminder of the devastation that can result if a government and its leader are allowed to go unchecked and be unaccountable.

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Nathaniel Eaton

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