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A CurtainUp Review
By David Lohrey
This production opens boldly, as Oedipus (Mark Rimer), who awaits news of Creon's (Jason Crowl) journey to Delphi, is surrounded by a chorus of veiled supplicants. Director Eve Adamson divides the long monologue of the priest among this chorus, so as to create for Oedipus a sense of being encircled by the very citizens whose city has been laid low. Robert Klingelhoefer has made the most out of the theatre's raked stage, creating a sparsely wooded crossroads, which symbolizes at once the heart of the city and the spot where Oedipus fatefully murdered his father. As the faceless chorus moves toward Oedipus to beg for his assistance, Ellen Mandel's bold score at first befitting the King's arrival devolves into a set of eerie sounds that punctuate the chorus' desperate cries. Combined with David Kniep's lighting, this opening scene creates a mood of woe and foreboding, an atmosphere wholly appropriate for the dreadful acts Oedipus is to soon learn he has committed. It is a beautiful, unforgettable opening.
Mark Rimer as Oedipus is a rather extraordinary presence. The actor's size alone sets a tone, at first of his character's earnest naiveté, and then of his bullying pomposity. His is a Greek Falstaff, at once soft and vulnerable, and then large and imposing. Mr. Rimer never disappoints, revealing in each scene a new dimension of his character's psyche. He is especially touching with Jocasta (Elise Stone) his Queen, who knows instinctively how to reduce her King with his man-handling physique to a jolly, babbling giant.
Ms Stone's feline features uniquely equip her to play this most desperate Queen. If Jocasta is capable of bringing down the walls of Thebes, this is an actress with the powers to make a meal if not of the set then of her fellow actors. Wisely, she keeps her considerable powers in check until the very last, making it all the more frightening when she comes apart. A volcano about to explode is by far more frightening than the hottest flow of lava. She pulls the play around, asking us to share her agony. If it is Oedipus' discovery that this play is about, this Jocasta demands our sympathy for what has been her knowledge. Ms Stone is a tiger on a hot tin roof.
Jason Crowl (Creon) lacks a regal posture, but makes up for it with his stately voice (surely a gift of the Gods). He is able to hold his own against Mr. Rimer's rather formidable presence, but perhaps has yet to learn a thing or two from his elders. Cocteau veteran Harris Berlinsky (Tiresias/Shepherd), for example, shows how to go toe to toe with a tyrant. He manages a perfect balance between fear and defiance as the reluctant bearer of bad news.
The all-male three member chorus (Craig Smith, Edward Griffin, Michael Surabian) performs adequately, although of the three, only Mr. Smith has the vocal powers to grab an audience's attention. Unfortunately, the costumes worn by this chorus mar the production, creating a distraction while failing to make a discernable point. While the principals are dressed in vaguely period garb of rather colorless earth tones, the chorus's dark suits make an incoherent statement. Dressed like shabby businessmen, and looking like three Athenian used-car salesmen, this chorus could be space travelers sent down from the USS Enterprise in search of an ancient mystery (Beam us up, Zeus.)
For the rest, this production of Aristotle's favorite tragedy stands out for its passion and sophistication.
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