Although it's set in 16th-century Venice, Scenes from an Execution offers an undersung portrait of art and politics that is modern in every way. At the center of the storm is a passionate painter, determined to hurl the horror of war back into the faces of the government that has commissioned her to celebrate it. In fiery, visceral language, playwright Howard Barker paints a timeless struggle between artistic ideals and political reality. The story finds humor, pain, joy, ugliness and beauty in an interplay between darkness and light. The play is itself subversive in its portrayal of politics subverting art. In the end, reconciliation seems possible, but it comes at a price.