Sunday, October 25, 2009

GreenStage Titus is bloody good fun

GreenStage's current production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus includes a couple dozen murders, several rapes, one sliced-out tongue, five lopped-off hands, one chopped-off horn, two slain offspring baked into a pie and served up to their momma, abused pumpkins, wanton out-of-wedlock sex that results in an illegitimate clown child, stabbed flies, a hootenanny, and so much spilled blood that the front row of the theater is declared a "splatter zone."

It's a comedy, and one of the funniest things Weisenheimer has seen in a while.

My Sweetie, the official scorer, declares that the program for the show contains the best ever one-line summary of a Shakespeare play: "Thus begins a series of events that lead to revenge, revenge, revenge, more revenge, and then some pie." Director Tony Driscoll writes that he thinks Titus includes "some of the greatest characters and some of the best verse the Bard ever gave us." He also finds it drop-dead funny. His production is a scream. It's what you might expect Quentin Tarantino or Sam Peckinpah would have done with it. The blood and violence are entirely over-the-top, and the inspired comic touches are too numerous to mention.

Driscoll gets marvelous performances out of a wonderful cast. A couple deserve calling out. Nicole Vernon as Lavinia is probably the goopiest character ever seen on stage. After losing both hands and her tongue she oozes blood for the rest of the show. That's her in the photo at right, shot by GreenStage producing artistic director Ken Holmes. But she gets a LOT bloodier than that! Orion Protonentis is wickedly evil and funny as Aaron, the clown. GreenStage regular Erin Day is delightfully conniving as the Goth queen Tamora and as the dominating empress to Lamar Lewis, who plays Saturninus somewhat less assertively than your typical Roman leader. Tom Dewey plays seven or eight characters and every one of them gets offed, including "guy with dead pigeons."

The cast included several Balagan Theatre veterans, among them Patrick Bentley, who played Titus. Banton Foster (Quintus) and Sam Hagen (Marcus) are fresh off Balagan's critically acclaimed Elephant's Graveyard. In Titus Foster plays banjo for the second consecutive production. Let's keep the streak alive! Johnny Patchamatla (Lucius) was marvelous as Balagan's Othello, the play that got me hooked on the company. And Amelia Meckler is a riot as "Scrub Wench," a role that -- wait, let me check -- nope, it's not in the Bard's original list of Dramatis Personae for Titus. But she's absolutely necessary in the production as a practical matter. Leaving all that blood about would make for slippery footing and force the company to change its name to RedStage. And when Meckler wipes down a Roman column, that baby gets clean!

Titus Andronicus runs through Halloween night. Go see it!

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