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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shakespeare crafts torture-porn in weirdly compelling Titus Andronicus

click to enlarge PAIN AND SUFFERING: Titus (Chris Kayser, left) and Lavinia (Sarah M. Johnson)
  • PAIN AND SUFFERING: Titus (Chris Kayser, left) and Lavinia (Sarah M. Johnson)

Before I saw Richard Garner’s production of Titus Andronicus, a thunderstorm rolled in and proceeded to rage and rumble outside Georgia Shakespeare for nearly the entire show. After Titus Andronicus ended and the house lights came up, the audience responded with a collective sigh of relief and nervous laughter. It was both the right environment and the right response to Shakespeare’s most notorious play, a ritualistic bloodbath nearly impossible to take seriously.

Yet Garner and company do manage to take Titus Andronicus seriously, presenting its grisly, wrenching effects and demented situations as credibly as they can. Garner, Georgia Shakespeare’s producing artistic director, offers no cerebral deconstruction of the play like Julie Taymor’s screen version of Titus, or use of the script to justify a series of wild effects like Nancy Keystone’s memorable 2003 production of another weird one, Cymbeline. Venturing where angels fear to tread, Garner and his actors stage a Titus that’s surprisingly compelling, if thematically underwhelming.

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(Photo by Bill DeLoach)

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