Titus Andronicus Review - Violence and Revenge

A violent and disturbing saga of revenge and retribution, TITUS ANDRONICUS is especially timely as the U.S. presidential elections draw near. Shakespeare wrote this tragedy over 400 years ago, yet the political questions it raises remain relevant today: How should a nation chose its leader? What happens when a government insulates itself from the citizens it once served? What are the consequences when a government goes awry?

Miebaka Yohannes, Michelle Wicklas, Nima Jafari - Photo by Miriam Geer

Set in the not-too-distant future, TITUS ANDRONICUS resonates with contemporary issues. Director Ellen Gear knows how to vividly wring emotions from events which might have happened yesterday. Or tomorrow? TITUS ANDRONICUS gives new meaning to the words brutal and bloody. Apparently, Shakespeare’s Elizabethans were a pretty gruesome lot – dismemberment, rape, and murder were all in a day’s work – and let’s not forget cannibalism. The rule of law may be flexible and even ambiguous at times – but this, one of Shakespeare’s earlier works, stretches legal and ethical questions to the limit.

Christopher W. Jones - Photo by Miriam Geer

General Titus Andronicus is a war hero – a man revered by his people, who call upon him to lead the country after an especially telling victory against their enemies. But Titus (Sheridan Crist) feels that he has done his share for his country and wants to relax and enjoy the fruits of his efforts as he enters old age. In keeping with that decision, he turns over the reins of State to Saturninus (Christopher W. Jones), the oldest son of the former deceased leader. In gratitude, Saturninus decides to wed Titus’ virgin daughter, Lavinia (Michelle Wicklas) – even though she has been promised to his brother Bassianus (Turner Frankosky).

Fin Kerwin, Michael McFall, and Clayton Cook - Photo by Miriam Geer

When Bassianus objects and runs off with Lavinia, Saturninus decides instead to marry Tamora (Marie Francoise Theodore), the defeated queen of his former enemy, recently vanquished by Titus. Despite Tamora’s earlier pleas for her youngest son’s life, Titus executed him “in the name of justice.” And we all know that a mother doesn’t forgive or forget. Now this grieving mother just happens to be in a position to exact revenge.

Mark Lewis, Sheridan Crist, and Michelle Wicklas - Photo by Miriam Geer

Thus begins Titus’s downward spiral from fame and fortune. Everything that matters to him is stripped away, including his children, one by one. Add to that three family hands and a tongue or two. With the devious help of Tamora’s ally and lover, Aaron the Moor (Michael McFall), retribution slowly escalates and blocks off all of Titus’s escape hatches. TITUS ANDRONICUS is a play that understands tragedy in all its vicious and bloody forms. Just be happy that you only have to worry about crime and gangs in Los Angeles. This play warns you that things could be worse.

Michelle Wicklas and Sheridan Crist - Photo by Miriam Geer

The talented director and cast do an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare to life and applying his universal themes to contemporary society. Nature – in the form of the outdoor staging at the Theatricum Botanicum – lends a helping hand, as does the skilled work of the entire production team. Whoever said that Shakespeare was dull and dry in our day-and-age hasn’t seen this presentation of TITUS ANDRONICUS.

TITUS ANDRONICUS runs October 1, 2016 with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tickets range from $25 to $38.50 with discounts for seniors, students, military veterans, teachers, and AEA members. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290. For information and reservations, call 310-455-3723 or go online.

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