“TITUS ANDRONICUS” SPOTLIGHTS OUR PRESENT & FUTURE, AT THEATRE LUNATICO, BERKELEY

Shakespeare’s Roman Empire Strikes New Trumpean Notes

by Barry David Horwitz 

I have always avoided this play. It’s a horror show of grotesque, gory, and ghoulish murders, rapes, and tortures that take place in a fictional late Roman Empire. “Titus Andronicus” sports lots of ranting and raving and mainly, the ever-popular REVENGE, that drips with blood from every speech.

And yet, the play exudes an ominous charm. After all, the power of one man to sway the multitudes and exert his petty, personal selfishness over the entire people makes a pretty familiar story.

In “Titus Andronicus,” the brutal tyrant Saturninus (marvelous Michael Barr) has the power to accuse, imprison, kill, and torture his subjects—the Roman Empire in its dying days has given him that patriarchal primacy.  Yes, it’s Trumpism in all its dismal glory, no mistake. The Emperor even puts children in cages. Saturninus, I mean.

Lucius (Isabelle Grimm) and Titus (Shane Fahy) Photo by Eileen Fisher

[Taylor] “presents indelible stage pictures that embody power, arrogance, and inequality.”

The ruling patriarch, his slimy, scheming family, and his sycophants break out in irrational passions, and practice smash/grab politics at every moment. That’s how Empires operate and then, fail—once they overreach their power. They create false enemies—like the press, and they scapegoat immigrants and minorities.  We are living in the end of an Empire, again. Shakespeare’s play proves it.

While other countries offer free health care, free universities, free housing—we offer jail, beatings, and ignorant vengeance.

Director Tina Taylor has laid out for us exactly what it’s like to live in this Empire. She has worked out physical and ritualistic movements for the actors that express the extreme inequality we live in now, in the U.S. She presents indelible stage pictures that embody power, arrogance, and inequality.

Bassiana (Talya Levine) is separated from Lavinia (Isabel Langen) Photo by Eileen Fisher

Read the full review by Barry David Horwitz at Theatrius

See more photos of TITUS ANDRONICUS in our photo gallery here!

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