In strictly contemporary terms, “Phèdre” is between a rock and a hard place. At the start of Jean Racine’s 1677 tragedy, the title character believes her husband is dead, and she finds herself desperately in love with her stepson.

It doesn’t end well, of course. But watching Phèdre meet her fate is a thrilling theatrical experience — especially in the new American Conservatory Theater production, which opened Wednesday.

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