The cover of this week's edition of the alternative newspaper Washington City Paper carried the promo "Theater: Euripides and Mitt Romney." Turn to page 31, and the headline is "Bully Mammoth."
Openly gay NPR movie critic Bob Mondello is also the longtime drama critic for the City Paper, and he can't see a new staging of "The Bacchae" by Euripides without thinking of the recent Washington Post "expose" charging Romney cut the hair of fellow prep school student John Lauber in a fit of juvenile homophobia:
It's an accident of timing that they should suddenly appear on stage this week-this square-jawed child of privilege with ramrod military bearing and rigid moral view, and the vaguely effeminate youth he means to punish for perceived social deviancy.
"First I will cut off these love-locks," threatens the bully with a sneer. "I have more power than you."
Then, to his confederates, "Seize him."
Times have changed, of course. Today, their conflict would play out not in a prep-school dorm, but in a classics class, for their names aren't Romney and Lauber, but Pentheus and Dionysus, and the lines they speak come from Nicholas Rudall's 1996 translation of Euripides' tragedy The Bacchae.
The more things change, the more they seem to echo the Greeks these days, what with public mistrust of upstart theologies, warring states that can't see eye-to-eye, and tantrums by politicos leading to calamities great and small.
Mondello seems to be endorsing the aggressive WashPost thesis that the alleged Romney attack was a Sixties outbreak of anti-gay bullying, and who cares if the Lauber family thought the Post story was inaccurate? The review concluded by sounding vaguely anti-religious:
And if the evening doesn’t make those moments as shattering as it might, it still leaves audiences with plenty to chew on – the power of the state versus the power of a god, worship that approaches madness, arrogance as its own punishment. Euripides lived in a society of unforgiving strictures and dire consequences. A sizable public feels that way about our own age. Take lessons where you will.