In the revival of Clarinda Karpov’s play, Ankhst, Dr. Alexandra Philips (played by Karpov), a once renowned archeologist comes to an Egyptian dig to resume her career interrupted by a nervous breakdown, hoping to immerse herself in her work and find peace. Together with her co-workers she uncovers a previously unknown tomb, in which she finds an urn full of ashes – a very unusual burial form for Egyptian people who believed in mummifying their dead. As she documents and records her findings inside the burial chamber, Philips is visited by an apparition that both scares and interests her. The only thing Philips is not sure of is whether she indeed had seen a spirit if it was a product of her inflamed imagination that had lead her to a nervous breakdown in the first place.
However, the creature returns the next day, confirming that he is an imprisoned spirit of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton, who had once been the husband of Queen Nefertiti and the father of King Tut-Ankh-Amun. The restless spirit and the recovering archeologist form an unlikely friendship, sharing their life stories as the days go by. Philips confides that her family never took her work seriously. Akhnaton “shows” Philips his childhood and his path to the becoming a pharaoh. “I wasn’t born to rule,” he tells Philips, revealing that he was, in fact, a younger sibling, but then his older brother died. He reveals that he was the first man who believed in the existence of only one god, a concept rejected by the high priests of his kingdom, who did not want to give up the power.
Lost in her conversations with the dead Egyptian king, Philips starts to fall behind on her work, yet she fiercely refuses help, insisting to be in the tomb alone. Her strange behavior causes concerns amongst her co-workers, diminishing her chances to secure an academic position. Having been held captive in his tomb for centuries, Akhnaton wants to finally be at peace, but what he’s asking Phillips to do for his freedom would jeopardize her career and her duty as a scientist. Will she give it all up to set the dead spirit free and rise from the ashes like the phoenix admired by her ghostly friend, who, after all, may only exist in her imagination? The choice is hers to make.
Straddling between the past and the present, this transcendent story educates us about ancient Egypt as well as archeology and even theology. Music and dance intermixed with the story line help to recreate the authenticity of the old civilization, and so do the embellished costumes and coin-sewn sashes. Since modern day political situation makes it hard to travel to the Pyramids on a whim, you may want to skip the flight and listen to the story first hand. And meet a ruler of ancient Egypt in person.