Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Actor's Shakespeare Project: Titus Andronicus

Is being presented down on JFK boulevard in Harvard Square until April 22nd. The venue is normally a retail space and yet seats one hundred comfortably...the conversion of the space to full time theatrical use is hearby urged by Channel Zero owing to the cruel fall off in cultural attractions in Harvard Square these last few years.
As for the play itself it is skillfully staged, all the performances are uniformly strong, Robert Walsh's Titus is particularly well played between the twin poles of the character's foolish devotion to duty and his resultant homicidal dementia. Ah but Shakespeare loved his duty loving soldiers (Othello) and foolish old men of power (Lear) didn't he?
If there is a general problem here it lies in the script which is not one of the Bard's best relying as it does on a climax that wouldn't be out of place in a "Nightmare on Elm Street" sequel. Contrivances aside it is always and everywhere Shakespeare's language & potent themes that elevate the mediocre into the marvelous.
And if there is the specific criticism it lies in director David R. Gammon's decision to cast men in the plays two major female parts. Despite the use of male actors in Elizabethan theater, it's always come off as a sort of "stunt casting" option in most modern revivals of Shakespeare. I've seen it down a half dozen times in various plays and of the lot I can clearly say it made a real difference in one case that being Celia Madeoy as Petruchio in Shakespeare and Company's gender reversed version of "The Taming of the Shrew".
It worked that time because the actress was tres formidable and fully invested into putting over a somewhat labored idea.
Here it's just sorta predictable.
Be that as it may it is still an good production of one of Shakespeare's most challenging plays. One hopes A.S.P> can find a way to bide a while in Harvard Square.

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