Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

UWM Theater, "Oedipus Rex"

Wednesday the 4th, we went to the Peck School of the Arts theatre to see UW-Milwaukee's production of Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, in an excellent translation by Steven Berg and Diskin Clay. This version struck a nice balance between declamatory style and modern language so that neither one became obtrusive. The paly retained its power and portent, but the words flowed easily from the cast's tongues.

One thing that was pointless about the production was the setting in the "new Thebes" of 2300, supposedly a post-Apocalytic time when humanity has fallen back to bronze-age technology and reverted to the worship of the old gods, according to the production notes. It was just as well that there was nothing discernible in this conceit in the actual production, and one would not have been aware of it at all if one had not read the program.

The play opens with a priestess (Elsa Gonzalez) invoking the gods while chorus members drum and dance estatically. Oedipus, King of Thebes (Andrew Edwin Voss), appears and speaks to the people asking how he can help them deal with the drought, plague, and other calamaties that are besetting the city. His brother-in-law, Kreon (Rich Gillard), returns from the oracle at Delphi with the news that Apollo has cursed the city because it harbors the murderer of the old King, Lias.  Oedipus vows that he will uncover the murderer and pronounces a dreadful anathema against the killer, not realizing that he himself is the guilty party.  He summons the seer Terisias (David R. Weaver, Sr.), who tells him that he is the man, but Oedipus does not believe it and, revealing his violent temper, accuses Terisias of parroting lies given him by Kreon. The offended prophet puzzles Oedipus with crypric remarks about his identity, echoes back Oedipus' curses upon him, and departs.

However, once his curiosity is aroused, Oedipus cannot resist worrying at the mysteries of Lias' murder and his own background, until the hideous revelation that the twin questions are really one, and that, although he strove to avoid the prophecies, he has in fact, killed his own father, married his mother, and sired misbegotten children upon her. The fact that all this was foreordained, and done with neither intention or knowlege, does not matter, so deep are the tabboos against parricide and incest.  Although the story is old and well known, tears still came to my eyes as the play winds to its tragic conclusion, and the people of Thebes lament the loss of their King, who is now a blinded beggar.

Director Tony Horne gave us an excellent, vital production of this venerable masterpiece. The chorus was rigorously drilled, tossing lines from one to the other, then all speaking in clear unison, as they flitted from side to side of the stage and reformed like a flock of birds in flight.

Oedipus has a long role, and I initially thought that Voss' declamatory delivery would become tedious, but as he warmed up and the script called for more and varied emotion, we got more warmth and flexibility, building to Oedipus angry outburst against Kreon, and his later devastion at the play's climax. He was very well supported by Abbey Starr White as Jocasta, Rich Gillard as the faithful Kreon, and David R. Weaver, Sr. as Terisias. An excellent show all told, and very well worth seeing.

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