REVIEW: Titus Andronicus (DreamLogic TheatreWorks)

 

Set in historic mansion, a gripping tale of war and revenge

 

 Titus Andronicus - DreamLogic TheatreWorks 3

    
DreamLogic TheatreWorks presents
   
Titus Andronicus
   
Written by William Shakespeare 
Directed by
Scott McKinsey
at
The Hopkinson House, 10820 South Drew (map)
through November 6   |  more info 
Note: performance includes house tour, open bar, and catered dinner

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

It has been over thirty years since I set foot inside one of the Morgan Park/Beverly mansions. They always seemed so forbidding and aloof on the other side of Longwood Drive. I felt a deep sense of privilege and gratitude to see a stunning version of Titus Andronicus in the Hopkinson Mansion. DreamLogic Theatre Works has woven Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy with a historic house that was the last stop for the Underground Railroad in the northern states. The Hopkinson house is as much a character in the play as is the searing violence and venal scheming of the Shakespeare’s Goths and Romans.

Titus Andronicus - DreamLogic TheatreWorks 4 The play is set when Rome was in decline. The Goths were invading Rome, pillaging villages, and meting out horrible punishments. The general Titus returns after a ten-year battle with the Queen Tamora and her retinue as his spoils of war. He executes Tamora’s son Alarbus to appease the Roman gods and sets in motion a carnal revenge cycle.

DreamLogic chose to present this production promenade style in the attic of the Hopkinson house. It is a wise choice that gives an almost enchanted value to the drama. I was given a tour of the home and some history revealing that Mrs. Hopkinson was a member of Queen Victoria’s court who also hosted dramatic productions in the same attic. The producers and cast also have been privy to a sweet ghost by the name of Spencer. The young lad’s trunk is a prop in the production and Spencer played a few pranks on the wardrobe mistress I was told. In the promenade style, the audience is a part of the play. The cast members wend their way through the audience. They address us as ‘Romans’ and look us in the eye while sometimes touching us. The audience is more witness than mere voyeur being entertained for a few hours. I was entranced by some action on the stage only to be surprised at the character of Aaron crouching behind me, panting and waiting to attack.

The attic is dressed in burlap and what seems to be birch twigs set as antlers, transforming the space into the cave-like smudged camps of ancient wars. Dim lights represent camp fires and oil lamps of ancient Rome. The slaves and captives are thrown into a pit that was originally hiding place for escaped slaves in America. The cruelty of war and slavery is the same in every age and it sent a shudder down my spine every time that pit was mentioned.

The cast of this production is superb. Titus Andronicus has long been maligned as one of Shakespeare’s lesser works. The combination of the cast will definitely make you reconsider this assumption. The actors trod the attic completely inhabiting the roles as if they’re the ghosts themselves. Curtis Powell plays the role of Titus with a measured ferocity such that it is a shock when the character’s madness is revealed to be a ruse.

Megan Storti plays the malevolent and seductive Tamora. Ms. Storti gives a savage performance as a queen in captivity. The Moor, Aaron, is played by Mallory Backstrom. I have seen some brilliant performances with nontraditional casting and I add this to that roster. Ms. Backstrom projects the warrior, lover, and defiant sire with heat and lithesome grace.

Jack Sharkey is impressive as the cuckolded Saturnius. Mr. Sharkey’s character commands the stage as the emperor by nepotism. Alexis Meuche as the doomed Lavinia is also wonderful. Her character is the first to suffer one of the works’s many dismemberments and brutal assaults. Ms. Meuche plays the muted Lavinia with raw emotion and superb physicality. (I could not look away though I wanted to when Chiron and Demetrius attack her.)

Ray Ready as Chiron and Edwin Unger as Demetrius bring some dark humor to the tragedy as well as requisite savagery. Rounding out this stellar cast are Paul Fleschner, Nick Goodman, Sara Katherine Hammond, Brendan Siegfried, Jeffrey Clarke Stokes, Brady Greer Huffman, and Mickey Renan. They revolve in and out of various roles without missing a step. Scott McKinsey’s direction is excellent and well paced. That is no small feat considering that this is a three hour production with one ten minute intermission.

I highly recommend Titus Andronicus as produced by DreamLogic. This is a full theatre experience and an immersion in history of this regions and our country’s own shameful past as passed down from ancient history.

       
       
Rating: ★★★★
     
    

DreamLogic TheatreWorks banner

As a side note-the Hopkinson mansion has a history as a residence to students throughout the years. Cast member Mallory Backstrom is in residence and an excellent tour guide. It’s a very worthy Chicago style theatre adventure. Go see it!

The production runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays Through November 6th at the Hopkinson Mansion, 10820 S. Drew Street, in the historic Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. The house is open at 6:30pm with a complimentary open bar, catered dinner, and look around the home before the show at 8:00pm. The Metra is right around the corner from the mansion and if you are feeling adventurous you can get there by CTA Red Line, the Vincennes bus, and then a short walk. If you don’t know your way around I would suggest a taxi from the 95th stop. More information is available at dreamlogictheatreworks@gmail.com

 

More about the Location and Production (from the producers)

The Hopkinson House was once a refuge for slaves fleeing their oppressors on the Underground Railroad,” commented director Scott McKinsey in a recent interview, “They hid in the attic, literally buried under the floorboards. When you set foot in the space, you can feel the weight of their needless suffering hanging in the air, bleeding from the walls. That is why we are so passionate about the staging of Titus Andronicus in this historic home. Titus is, at its heart, a play about needless suffering and its terrible consequences. In this staging, ever act of brutality, cruelty and prejudice that occurs feels far more visceral and immediate. The experience is very primal. However, the experience is not meant to be gratuitous. Our goal is to honor the legacy of these people who suffered immeasurable hardships and agony to achieve their freedom.”

To further tap into the immediacy and primal energy of the play, Titus Andronicus is being presented in promenade. The promenade style eliminates the barrier between audience and actors by placing them together in the same environment. Throughout the performance, patrons may move around the space amongst the actors, viewing scenes from any vantage point they choose. Rather than sitting passively outside the action, the audience is entirely immersed. The actors may speak directly to patrons around them, further drawing them into the action. The promenade experience is highly exhilarating and intensifies the core message of the plot. This staging choice is reflective of DreamLogic Theatreworks’ commitment to revitalizing classic texts through bold, innovative and experimental choices.

 

The historic Hopkinson House

 

Hopkinson House Hopkinson House Hopkinson House

About DreamLogic Theatreworks

DreamLogic Theatreworks is a non-profit theatre company founded in 2009. The production features Mallory Backstrom, Paul Fleschner, Nick Goodman, Sara Katherine Hammond, Brady Greer Huffman, Alexis Meuche, Curtis Powell, Ray Ready, Mikey Renan, Jack Sharkey, Brendan Siegfried, Jeffrey Stokes, Megan Storti and Edwin Unger. Scott McKinsey is the Artistic Director of DreamLogic and director of Titus Andronicus. Lauren Sweeney is DreamLogic’s Executive Designer and the designer for Titus Andronicus. David Sweeney is Managing Director of DreamLogic Theatreworks.

       
         

3 Responses

  1. Had the opportunity to catch the show during previews and was blown away by cast and crew alike. I expect great things from this burgeoning theater troupe and await their next production with baited breath. DreamLogic TheatreWorks is truly a labor of love that demonstrates the many forms theater can take in the artistic world.

  2. I was amazed and enthralled by this production. I felt as if I was a part of the story, a silent observer or witness to a great tragedy. The cast and set allowed me to be transported to another era. The superior acting that brought Aaron to life, also brought tears to my eyes, as he bargined for his sons’ life. The unique “attic” location, echoed with the longing and fears of slaves, who once occupied that hiding space. Everything was too good for words.

  3. I, too, was fortunate enough to witness and experience this breath-taking presentation. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this adventurous and committed troupe and their associated performers!

Leave a Reply to Julienne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: