Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus"

We went to the American Shakespeare Center's production of Titus Andronicus this weekend.

This is a Shakespeare play that I knew nothing about, and I spent some time this past week reading summaries and critiques. From the perspective of literary critics, it's considered one of Shakespeare's worst works - short on memorable lines and long on gore. One critic analogized the play to a summer blockbuster.

It's definitely gory, but I loved the way ASC produced Titus -- they really emphasized the Drama (that's a capital D for a reason), and a number of actors seemed to consciously be playing for kitsch. Aaron the Moor (a fascinating character, in terms of what Shakespeare's trying to say about race) was brilliant in terms of his dispositions on evil. While the other characters (particularly Titus and Tamora) are motivated to commit acts of violence by revenge, Aaron's motivation is simpler (or more complex?).

In addition to revenge, the play focuses on parent-child bonds -- the problem is, Shakespeare's message about those bonds is less than clear. For this reason, I agree with the "blockbuster" critique -- perhaps with this piece, the bard was just writing to the (mass) crowd.

The Blackfriars Theater is beautiful - I loved the wood and the way that the setting is so intimate, and the actors did a particularly good job of playing to the audience.

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