Friday, February 8, 2019

Keeping it Relevant

Plague stricken Thebes is in chaos. Citizens demand that king Oedipus (dl Hopkins) do something about it. Oedipus's brother-in-law Kreon (R.O. Crews) delivers a message from the oracle of Delphi- - - the plague will cease when the murder of Laius - former king of Thebes - is avenged. Oedipus vows to find the murderer. 

And we know the rest. Was it his fate to kill his father King Laius and wed his mother Jacosta (Patricia Alli)? Or was it self-fulfilling prophecy? Oedipus heard the prophecy, believed it, and fulfilled it. Could he have changed course?

Textbooks have been written about the answer to that question. And Oedipus Rex, considered by many to be Sophocles' masterpiece, has been dissected, analyzed, debated by high school and college students ad nauseum. 

So how do you keep Sophocles' masterpiece relevant? Director Vinnie Gonzales sets the drama in 1920s South with wisdom (the moral) imparted by a fire and brimstone preacher (Jeremy V. Morris) and a chorus of gospel singers (Shantell Dunnaville, Shalimar Hickman Fields, and Shalandis Wheeler Smith) providing inspiration.  

Gonzalez shows that it doesn't really matter that Oedipus was written more than two thousand years years.  Its themes - incest, betrayal, state power, fate v. self-determination, hubris are timeless and universal. 

In fact, the heart of the Oedipus narrative seems to be playing out in our own government. Think of the White House as the castle and Mr. Trump the tyrannical king. Not such a stretch.

Firehouse Theatre's Oedipus under Gonzalez's strong direction, offers across-the-board top-notch performances - particularly by Morris who is the embodiment of the Southern preacher; from intonation and cadence in his oratory, to the foot stomping, hand-waving nuances of the physicality of a charismatic preacher. Yes, Morris, I do believe!

Oedipus, a gospel myth offers one of the finest endings I've seen in quite some time. I still get chills thinking about it.

Niomi Kaiser's costumes are spot-on; a perfect blend of ancient and early 20th century Southern garb. 

The play is fodder for conversation. Why do we as human beings have this capacity for evil? Is it a deficit of human nature or a consequence of our social systems and power structures? These questions are just as relevant in 2019 as they were in Ancient Greece. 

Oedipus, a gospel myth continues at Firehouse Theatre through February 23, 2019 (my 49th birthday). For tickets visit:

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