Writer-director Bill Sterritt's treatment of the legendary Icenian queen's revolt against the first-century Roman occupation of Britain is more a play of ideas than heroic exploits. It's too bad, because if Sterritt had lavished the same attention on simple stagecraft that he does on transcendentalist philosophy, he might have landed the postmodern tragedy he intended rather than the arid dissertation he actually bags. The intellectual game Sterritt hunts is the age-old dichotomy between civilization and nature. The two sides are personified by Roman governor Suetonius Paulinus (Matt Haught), whose mandate is to peacefully Romanize the British tribes through civil means, and "nature's regent," Queen Boadicea (Gowrie Hayden), whose initial accommodation with Rome ends in humiliation the rape of her daughters (Ashby Plain, Lindsay Lauren Wray) and the annexation of her lands by licentious procurator, Catus Decianus (a charismatic Sean Pritchett). Arousing her warrior nature, the queen initially mauls the Romans until Suetonius sheds the mask of civility to unleash the animal brutality of imperial power. Unfortunately, Sterritt's stilted, quasi-heroic dialogue, his curiously flat staging and his reliance on symbolic relationships rather than the interpersonal kind robs the proceedings of any real pathos. With no character-driven conflicts to play off, the cast does its best (Hayden and Pritchett are standouts), but even Brando would have been hard-pressed to crack the role of "civilization." Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 15. (323) 463-3900.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Jan. 17. Continues through Feb. 15, 2009