Jon Huffman & Mollie Murk in Titus Andronicus. Photo by Bill Brymer
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matt Wallace
Review by Jennifer Hubbard
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Jennifer Hubbard. All rights reserved.
The echoing sounds of dripping water falling into a barren space. The low rhythmic banging of the drum at a distance. The ritual cleansing of a warrior’s face… a rare moment of stillness before the madness ensues.
“Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
Blood and revenge are hammering in my head…”
The dragging of body bags. The howling voices of the imprisoned. The sparkle of cold and jagged silver amongst the black-clad bodies… Ahh, a murder of crows.
Like some strange and oily pot of burgoo left to simmer and now boiling over… this production of William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus spills into the cavernous, yawning maw of the LVA space… so closely matching play and deed with concrete walls and metal grids that the room itself becomes a player, a matchless character on which to sharpen and hone the bloody journey of the play.
Corners dark for dirty deeds? Check. Scaffolding for scaling the heights of power? Check.
Barren, echoey surfaces for reflecting the myriad screams and pleas and raucous laughs of evil unleashed? Check.
And like the bubbling cauldron of burgoo… Is that a bit of bone? A hairy tail?…some bits are lumpy, some a bit underdone, some fully spiced, some bland, and occasionally, through the smoky, steely flavor – there is a bit so tasty that even the gristle is rendered palatable.
Sample and savor the grotesque and awesome paintings – companion exhibit to the evening’s events – like some rogue’s gallery of bizarre and twisted portraits, trophies of campaigns past. All hail, artist Shayne Hull!
Witness the weight of time and pain on the visage of the man himself, Titus Andronicus, valiant in war, tied to his ritualistic, tribal traditions, on whose shoulders fate will fall… All hail, actor Jon Huffman!
Witness the brashness and power of two lovers engaging in sex just a hair’s breadth from your perch… Tamora, Queen of the Goths, taking her pleasure of Aaron just moments before sending young Lavinia to her rape and dismemberment at the hands of Tamora’s sons. All hail, actor Jennifer Pennington, she of the deep and resonant laugh!
Witness Lavinia struggle to speak… the strangling, gasping wet of a mouth creating sound with no tongue to form it… All hail, actor Mollie Murk!
Witness Aaron cradle his new-born babe, his heir… with no heart for – indeed, passionate disavowal of – the demand to dash out its brains (so, in this moment, unlike his fictional great-cousin, Lady M)… All hail, actor Dathan Hooper, he of the passionate life-energy!
Absorb the visceral blow, the stomach-turning crunch, of flesh on steel and the slash of red on the white panel of the van as the Nurse’s head is crushed like so much pumpkin on the street the night after Halloween… All hail, Fight Choreographer Eric Frantz and actor Gracie Taylor!
Witness the thorny moral struggle of Titus Andronicus, questioning whether he must be honor-bound to slay his own daughter… ‘so that she might not outlive her shame, and may not bring continued sorrow to her father by her presence.’ All hail, playwright William Shakespeare!
Revenge plotted and executed resulting in death, death, rape, dismemberment, and death… Blood and gore? Check. Tribal feuds on steroids? Check. Trickery, deceit, drugs, sex and steely electric guitar. (All hail, Lighting & Sound Designer Jason Weber!) It’s all in there.
Embracing the twisted, the macabre, and the dark humor that is this play… all while rending the seam of time. Check. All hail, Producing Artistic Director Matt Wallace & Company!
As for my taste in burgoo…Does it run to richness over filler? Sure. Slow, low simmer over full boil? Yes. Especially in the final attempt to choke down a gargantuan bite (triple-murder, natch) after our pell-mell communal consumption of this dish… when we had supped on that oily burgoo to distendedness… I craved nothing more than a full moment of silence for my sauce-splashed self before the final, satisfying belch of relief – the curtain call.
If your taste runs to full seasonal stew, complex and dark, overflowing burgoo, this one’s for you.
October 5-31, 2017
Tickets $20 in advance
At Louisville Visual Art
1538 Lytle Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Jennifer Hubbard has worked professionally in the theatre as a director, performer, administrator, educator, and audiobook narrator. In many years of creative association with Actors Theatre of Louisville, she directed for and performed in the Humana Festival of New American Plays, including the premiere of Reverse Transcription, written and directed by Tony Kushner. She has worked with international theater director Anne Bogart, taught at the School at Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago, and developed her own street theatre piece, River of Life here in Louisville. Her theatre work has taken her to The First 42 Festival of Singapore, The Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland, and across the United States from Connecticut to San Francisco.