The Persians Revisited

A 2,500-year-old Greek historical play remains eerily contemporary

Erin Gann as Xerxes and Helen Carey as Atossa in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Aeschylus' "The Persians," a new version by Ellen McLaughlin, directed by Ethan McSweeny. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

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Now that Americans seem more accustomed—or anesthetized—to the daily stories of car bombs and casualties, Aeschylus' shocking relevance may be fading once again. The Persians is a sort of Greek Brigadoon, crumbling back into the desert sands until some new hapless society decides it needs Aeschylus' protean wisdom. And perhaps new parallels will emerge for future theatergoers, just as the father-son dynamic of the play was likely more salient in recent productions than those in other eras. "You don't do a play and make it timely," says Ethan McSweeny, who directed Persians productions in New York and Washington, both with McLaughlin's script. "You do a play and see what happens."


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