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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Public


  Jennifer Ikeda and Stephanie Roth Haberle/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Of course, it’s going to be a bloodbath. Hands will get severed. A tongue cut off. Gang rape will occur. Naughty siblings baked into a pie, which their mom will unwittingly eat. The stagehands will even need to wear raincoats as a result of the gallons of blood spilled.

But that’s part of the strange appeal of Shakespeare’s gory, rarely produced early tragedy Titus Andronicus, which is now receiving a well-acted, if conceptually muddled, production at the Public Theater as part of its extremely low-priced Public Lab series.

Titus (Jay O. Sanders), a well-regarded Roman general, returns home with Tamara, the defeated Queen of the Goths, and her three sons. After Titus executes one of the sons, Tamara plots revenge against Titus. And thanks to Titus’ inept and rash decisions, that proves only too easy to achieve, much to the physical harm of Titus’ most unfortunate children.

Even if the violence does reach ridiculously epic proportions, Titus Andronicus remains a strong thriller that deserve to be produced more often. And while Michael Sexton’s production is often compulsively watchable, the gimmicks that surround his modern-dress production are not too successfully implemented.

France Dolce, recently of Billy Elliot, receives an unexpected amount of emphasis, playing two different murdered children followed by Titus’ grandson Lucius. The show even opens with him drawing silently. Speaking of which, the stage is curiously dominated by wooden planks with various drawings and pieces of writing on them.

Sanders, who has performed excellently in Shakespeare in the Park productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Bottom and Twelfth Night as Toby, proves that he can also throw himself into a meaty dramatic role with full credibility and passion. Plus, as a large man, he has the right physical presence to play Titus.

The rest of the cast is similarly strong. Ron Cephas Jones is unapologetically vicious as Aaron the Moor, who gleefully tricks Titus into cutting off his arm and is carrying on an affair with Tamara. On the other hand, Jennifer Ikeda portrays Lavinia with pitiful sadness and complete desperation.

Titus Andronicus is the last of three Shakespeare productions to play the Public Theater during the fall, following Love’s Labour’s Lost and King Lear. Let’s hope that the Public will continue to make Shakespeare a regular part of its downtown programming, and not just something to be relegated to the outdoor Delacorte during the summertime.     


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