KPBS AIRDATE: July 14, 2006
It’s midsummer in San Diego – a perfect time to come in out of the sun and soak up some classics. The Old Globe’s Shakespeare Festival is in full swing, and it’s got something for everyone: a comedy, a tragedy and a grand and gory mix of the two. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Othello” and for the first time in the Globe’s 70-year history, “Titus Andronicus.” That’s the bloody one, and as the brilliant Festival artistic director Darko Tresnjak promised, it’s “bloody good fun.” There’s so much murder and dismemberment in this revenge tragedy that it veers over the edge into comic excess. So, Tresnjak capitalizes on that, using Beatles tunes and songs from the musical “Chicago” to punctuate the action – employing wildly imaginative ways to symbolize the endless flow of blood – from red ribbons to confetti, drizzled red sand to gorgeously snapped Chinese fans. But underneath is a topical, political message about the absurdity of vengeance – and the violence and destruction it begets.
“Othello,” of course, is about the venom of jealousy. The monstrous Iago will stop at nothing after his general has failed to elevate his position. So he poisons Othello’s mind, subsequently bringing down his rival, the devoted Desdemona and the pitifully reckless and credulous Moor. Deep-voiced Jonathan Peck is wonderfully noble and emotional as Othello and Karl Kenzler is terrific as the oily Iago, whom he plays like a Venetian Ken Lay, smooth and businesslike in his evildoing, smirking at his own insidiousness. On the lighter side, “Midsummer” is about the crazy vagaries of love. It isn’t the strongest or funniest production of the three, though it should be. But there are some gorgeous stage pictures and enchanting updates. One of the great delights of having a resident repertory company is seeing the same performers play vastly different roles, showing their comic and dramatic range. So treat yourself to a smorgasbord of Shakespeare this summer. And bring the kids; they especially seem to relish the bloodthirsty brutality of “Titus.”
Now, while you’re on the trail of intellectual enlightenment, why not go back even further in time – to the Greeks? 6th @ Penn Theatre is presenting an excellent production of “Iphigenia at Aulis,” the Euripides tragedy written in about 400 B.C., given a fresh, modern, sensitive and sensible new translation by Marianne McDonald. The play will surprise you with its relevance. Euripides was the greatest anti-war playwright of antiquity, and in this drama he shows misguided and self-serving leaders willing to sacrifice their children to the endless lure of battle and the elusive promise of victory.
Summer is heating up on San Diego stages… and contemporary politics sneak right into the action. So why don’t you get in on the action, too?
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.