On its opening night, April 6, Aida had an eager audience that nearly filled the auditorium in the Performing Arts Center. With all the lively dances and a deep theme about freedom and love, it is hard to imagine disappointment from the viewers.
The curtains lifted and the performers released their voices into song. Then the scene transitioned into Princess Aida (Jessica Staples) running around with her handmaidens along the Nile, though it is not long before Captain Radames takes all the women captive.
Aida is about a young Nubian princess who wanted nothing except to be free from her bonds of nobility and to run wild in the countryside along the Nile River with her handmaidens. Instead, Captain Radames discovers them and takes them all captive.
“Remember you’re a slave if you want to survive,” Radames tells Aida.
Egypt and Nubia are at war with each other so ironically, the theme of freedom begins in that moment. She wants to experience freedom outside of Nubia’s boundaries but once she does, it is short-lived.
Part of what is intriguing about Aida’s personality is her flat-out refusal to go down without a fight. She seizes the sword and defends herself against Radames for seemingly an inexhaustible amount of time, but finally he does knock the sword from her hand and sends it flying off to the side. But even though he snaps chains on her, she still admonishes him for his lack of respect for her and puts him in his place, tracing back to her noble background.
Aida may also be relatable to today’s world in regards to expectations from parents and society in contrast to a person’s deep desires, including Radames. The pharaoh promised his daughter to him nine years before, but after Radames meets Aida, he falls in love with her instead. But Radames does not wish to become the next pharaoh, but longs for adventures and conquering other countries, so he feels important. When the Pharaoh informs him that he and the daughter will marry within a week, his conflict strengthens.
Eventually, Aida also falls for Radames and, after a brief reunion with her father, she has her own scene in which she sings about forgetting him while at the same time she is still wearing the pendant he gave her for protection as she passes through borders.
What makes the play so well-done resides within the costumes and how the characters wear their costumes. There is a saying that goes something like: don’t let your clothes wear you; you wear your clothes. That is certainly true for Aida. For instance, Aida’s bright red and slightly suggestive dress reflects her audacity as well as coordinates well with the theme throughout the play.
What often attracts the audience is sometimes what they may take for granted, as in the seemingly minor roles the other crew members fill in. The lights used in the background or in the sky drop throughout Aida convey different moods. In an earlier scene, Steve Smith used red backlight to relay a sinister and shadowy feel when Zoser and Radames plot to kill Pharaoh.
Outside of love and emotion, the color red in Aida also foreshadows a darker event at the play’s conclusion in which some of the characters die. Some audience members could interpret the endings in different ways such as: don’t let your passions kill you, choose carefully who you love, or be cautious of who you associate with.
I really loved how Aida explored what it meant to be free in a variation of settings and relationships: significant others and families, politics, how an individual plays a part in them through choices, and arriving at a realization of who you really are.
If you want a chance to go see the play, you still have a few dates left. Aida begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday or Friday in the Ted Paul Theatre or at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. You can buy tickets at the box office in the Performing Arts Center any time after 5 p.m. or online.