Disclaimer: This review is a bit scary for me, because I’m afraid that nothing I write will adequately do this show justice. Please allow me be blunt on the outset:
This show is fantastic!
This show is fantastic!
In a kingdom of a borderland barrio, “King” Laius ( Leandro Cano) awaits the arrival of his firstborn. As is the custom in this heavily religious city, Laius enlists a seer to learn of the fate of the child. The seer informs Laius that no tribute to the gods will reverse his fate, for he is cursed, destined to be murdered by his own. Determined to thwart the prophesy, Laius takes the child from wife Jocasta ( Marlene Forte) moments after his born, cuts his feet, and hands him off to his most trusted henchmen, Tiresias ( Winston J. Rocha). He charges Tiresias with the disposal of the child, no questions asked.
Alas, Tiresias does not do away with the child. Instead, he raises the boy as his own. Oedipus ( Justin Huen) grows up to be a product of the system, in and out of correctional facilities, not resistant, but resigned to his destined thug life. Tiresias, who got himself thrown in jail to be with his son, raised Oedipus to know that he was powerful and capable of anything he wanted – despite the infamous cruelty of the gods. Oedipus himself grew up knowing that he would one live to successfully defy the gods, or perhaps become one.
The day of Oedipus release arrives and sure enough, he has an altercation with a stranger, which ends in murder. He finds himself at the home of an old friend, Creon ( Daniel Chacón), who reluctantly allows him to stay with him and his grieving newly-widowed sister, Jocasta. Oedipus and Jocasta kind instant soulmates in one another and become lovers. Jocasta bequeaths all that Laius once had to Oedipus, much to the anger of Creon. Rumors begin to fly, religious leaders begin denouncing Oedipus as cursed and the truth that he is the one who killed Laius is revealed. His relationship with Jocasta now strained, he goes to see Tiresias in prison, where he learns the full extend of his bloody destiny.
Oedipus el Rey takes place in a kingdom that is deeply entrenched in the old ways, rapt by superstition, and largely god-fearing. And yet, it is a world that feels very current, even without the references to Griffith Park or Pico and Union. Moreover, while the tale of Oedipus Rex is literally ancient, the lesson it teaches about arrogance persists in its relevance today.
Oedipus el Rey is a brilliant, reverence and worthy reimagining of the timeless original first penned by Sophocles. Justin Huen is electrifying as Oedipus, the ill-fated pawn of the gods. Marlene Forte portrays a Jocasta whose sorrow and grieve are palpable. Leandro Cano’s Laius was cruel and angerous without being completely devoid of humanity. Winston J. Rocha’s Tiresias is the portrait of submission and wisdom. And Daniel Chacón delivers the much-needed breaks from the high drama through his character Creon. The Coro, whose composition was constantly mutating, performs as a colorful symphony, voicing Luis Alfaro’s lyrical poetry in finely tuned unison. This production is a tour de force of exceptional performances that will leave you breathless.
Oedipus el Rey has got it all: sex, violence, love, betrayal, lost innocence. It is simply outstanding.
Oedipus el Rey, a National New Play Network World Premiere is now playing through March 28, 2010 at:
The Theatre @ Boston Court
70 N. Mentor Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106
Ticket Info: 626-683-6883
Photos by Ed Krieger