Review: Hypocrite Theatre’s ‘Oedipus’

  

 

Stacey Stoltz in 'Oedipus'. Picture taken by Paul Metreyeon

 

Oedipus
Adapted and Directed by Sean Graney
The Hypocrites, May 31-July 12 (buy tickets here )

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

What is not laudable about this production of Oedipus? Sean Graney’s rockin’ adaptation harkens back to the first productions of Hair, when our country badly needed to let the sunshine in. We need, these days, that same purifying light. Rare is the theatrical event that can stand on its own, in terms of theme, artistry, and invention, yet also address, in profound and universal ways, the sickness of our nation.

The Hypocrites do Oedipus as rock opera! Yet it is a rock opera that preserves the poetry and tragedy of Classical tradition, without slipping into the maudlin solipsism to which rock opera is prone. Inspired by Ted Hughes’ translation of Seneca’s Oedipus, Sean Graney maintains a healthy devotion to the history and beauty of this ancient myth, while still managing to kick out the props and go for something fresh–something both the kids and the old Classical Lit geeks can thoroughly enjoy.

Steve Wilson and Stacy Stoltz in 'Oedipus".  Picture taken by Paul Metreyeon.If the set were not enough to create a carnival mood, with it bright colors, its McDonald’s style plastic picnic tables, its totem pole booth ringed with lights, or its pink painted filing cabinets growing a cactus out of one open drawer, then the actors tossing around balloons between themselves and the audience engender a carnival atmosphere. The set design expresses both the horror and mock horror aspects of the production, which one discovers upon noticing that the blue plastic sheets, enclosing the set from floor to ceiling, are dripped with thick red paint, simultaneously suggesting both blood and fake blood.

This strikes a balanced interrogation between the plastic and the real. Stacy Holtz, as the Blind Seer, may sing about the emptiness of life and, therefore, the emptiness of losing life; but her final rock solo, as Jocasta, brings the emptying loss of life to its raw, devastating conclusion. Thank God–or the gods–and/or the terrific cast—that, here, we have a show that uses irony and distancing to intense theatrical purpose, not as a faddish ploy. What is done to Oedipus (Steve Wilson), by fate or by his people, is truly horrifying. Yet humor is played for all it’s worth—whether between Creon (Halena Kays) and Oedipus jockeying for position or the gratuitous tongue-wrestling between Oedipus and Jocasta.

One wonders whether can be no “over the top” for this production precisely because it takes place “under the big top”. Yet, what grounds and sustains it is its unmistakable, unyielding commitment to poetry. If anything, Sean Graney’s careful preservation of poetic language consecrates this theatrical space, as surely as it consecrates Oedipus’s struggle for the truth that will demand his ultimate sacrifice. While Graney has never had a classical education, his work relies on self-education, a thorough love for the tragedians, and copious research, both prior to writing as well as all the way through development.

Steve Wilson and Halena Kays in The Hypocrites' 'Oedipus'.  Picture taken by Paul Metreyeon.“Sean and Stacey and I have worked together close to 10 years now,” says Halena Kays. “We all worked together for 4.48 Psychosis. Sean has very definite ideas. He’s really clear about the world the play is going to be in. We would get the script filled with clues about how the tone would change, things like, ‘they’re underwater,’–things he knows for himself and his instincts. I find that the best way to work with Sean is to make really strong choices. The actors’ contributions come through in the minutiae—the clarity, the magic and the fun.”

The delicate minutiae wield the greatest political punch. The first moment Oedipus appears on stage, a surgical mask covers his face—recalling all our panics over H1N1, SARS, and AIDS. But diseases that mark a country “rotting from within” do not end with viruses. Oedipus may believe a little too completely in his own legend, as self-made man and conqueror of the Hell Bitch. Steve Wilson brings realistic pathos to a man who will nobly prevail past the point where others would rationalize their ideals away. Such an uncompromising nature will lead him to be self-sacrificing. It will also lead him to commit torture. For all who care about the power of theater to reveal our political, psychological, and spiritual selves, hie thee to this show for shame. Or live thee in the shame of our nation’s present state without it.

Rating: ««««

Venue:  The Building Stage
Location: 412 N. Carpenter Street, 2 blocks south of Grand, Blue line to Grand or via the #8 or #56 bus.  (Click on map below for larger view.)

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Review: ‘Love Person” at Victory Gardens

 

Using the power of multi-platform story-telling, Love Person explores the emotional toll caused by discordant communications.

 

Love Person: "Well, I mean, it's not like I haven't seen people continuing before.  Continuing right out of my life.

 

 Love Person
by Aditi Brennan Kapil
Victory Gardens Theatre

Reviewed by Timothy McGuire

Love Person, by Aditi Brennan Kapil, now playing at Victory Gardens, explores the power of communication by creating a play that equally encompasses sign language, Sanskrit, English and modern forms of written communication within inter-tangled love triangles. The actor and actresses do not carry the plot alone due to the audience being able to visually read the texts and emails that are being sent between the characters. This creates a very realistic pause that exists within modern communication. The use of texting and email in this play also brings to question the power of communication between individuals even when you have no physical Love Person: "OK, you're pissed, I'm sorry."contact. The imperfections of translation are discussed in terms of human emotions so that we have a better understanding for the importance of these communication gaps.

The lead character, Free, is a moody, deaf, lesbian, played by Liz Tannebaum, who accidently forms an emotional bond with her sister’s crush while yearning for someone to honestly communicate with. Free lives with her lover and interpreter Maggie, played by Arlene Malinowski. Their relationship seems logical and could hold a real romance about it since they live together with their own separate language, but there is no warmth between them. Maggie’s outgoing attitude and her own conversations with friends leaves Free feeling isolated.

Ram is a Sanskrit professor studying the translation of Sanskrit poems. Ram is played by Rajesh Bose, who was the original Ram at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. His character is unsatisfied with the quality of Sanskrit poems once they are translated, he feels that the original language is far superior and loses some of its true meaning when spoken in English. This is an immediate connection for Free and Ram (even though they argue about it) since Free feels that sign language is inadequately translated into English.

Ram is reluctantly being set-up with Free’s sister. Free’s sister Vic is an English speaking, club-hopping, half-crazy Euro chick. Cheryl Graeff plays Vic‘s extreme emotional highs and lows with an entertaining personality. We are sprung back awake, and laughter is brought back into the theater when she enters the stage. She is not the intellectual or emotional connection that Ram is looking for. Even after Vic’s repeated attempts to attract Ram’s attention, he has no desire to have any sort of relationship with her until he received what he thought was an email from Vic. From that point he started talking through email, sharing his true personality and vulnerabilities with another person who actively shared in this modern form of bonding.

LovePerson: Free signing Maggie

There was a true intimate connection being made, without any physical interaction. The power of the communication was felt in the silence and anticipation while waiting for the next text to appear on screen. For those of us that consistently use texting and instant messaging as a form of communicating, this scenario, directed by Sandy Shinner is a realistic portrayal of the emotions involved while talking in 2009. The sometimes slow and boring moments of waiting for a response, also create an anxious sense of insecurity joined with excitement when you get a response. Liz and Rajesh are able to bring the power of this connection to life as they anticipate their next chance to speak to each other. That is also why the ending felt unfinished or unexplained. Was that connection really that intimate?

Love Person: texting-emailingWe are unable to see the depth of Ram’s character and there is never an emotional connection made with the audience as to why he chooses the path he does for his future. Free’s abrupt affection for her girlfriend Maggie at the end of the play doesn’t seem to fit her character. There is still a lot left unexplained as to why the bond formed through communication was so easy for her to walk away from if it meant so much to her personal happiness. Is she “settling” for Maggie, or do they find a deeper way to communicate through their love?

Love Person is unique in the way that it puts forth a multi-lingual performance. The three languages are used equally as lead languages. The audience is able to follow and fully absorb all forms of communication, which help deepen the impact of the performance. The script does a wonderful job at celebrating differences and poking fun and some humorous stereotypes. In particular, the scenes with Vic and Ram in Vic’s bedroom will make you chuckle.

Rating: «««

Venue: Victory Gardens Theater
When: Runs through June 14th
Tickets: call 773-871-3000

More information regarding Victory Gardens after the fold.

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Sign-languaged sex-education – in French!

Jersey Boys Chicago on the Tonys!!!

 

Theater Thursday

Thursday, June 11

Oedipus

The Hypocrites at The Building Stage
412 N. Carpenter Ave., Chicago

oediupus theater thursdaysSean Graney’s new adaptation tells the story of a compassionate, albeit arrogant, leader whose desire to heal his people causes his own demise. The promenade staging transforms the traditionally passive chorus into an actively engaging audience experience. The Hypocrites reinvent this 2,500-year-old play into a contemporary and thrilling theatrical event. Then stay for drinks and informal discussion with director Sean Graney and the cast.  Please note that the show contains haze, strobe, brief moments of complete darkness and that you are encouraged to move around the performing space. Run time: 55 minutes (no intermission)

Event begins at 8 p.m. Stay afterwards for drinks and discussion.

TICKETS ONLY $20
For reservations call 773.989.7352 and mention "Theater Thursdays" or buy online at
www.the-hypocrites.com.

Free parking available in The Building Stage lot.