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.
[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.
Read the full review by Barry David Horwitz at Theatrius
See more photos of TITUS ANDRONICUS in our photo gallery here!
Steven Dietz Entices Us with Suspense and Mystery
by Rachel Norby
I thoroughly enjoyed Theatre Lunatico’s masterful presentation of “Dracula.” Performed in La Val’s Subterranean Theater, the setting is intimate and spooky. Whispered echoes from the ensemble add to the eeriness. An ageless story about the vampire who cannot die, Lunatico’s “Dracula” impressed me with superb acting, costuming, and staging.
“Dracula” opens in London, 1897, where serious Dr. Seward (resolute Shoresh Alaudini) has fallen in love with the fickle Lucy (versatile April Culver). Dr. Seward is determined to make a name for himself by understanding what causes the lunacy of a patient in the mental hospital, Renfield (talented Maria Grazia Affinito). Alaudini perfectly conveys Seward’s stalwart nature, mingled with quiet desperation.
“Superb acting, costuming, and staging”.
Eileen Fisher (Dr. Anna Van Helsing) and Shoresh Alaudini (Dr. Seward)
Maria Grazia Affinito, brilliant as Renfield, endears herself to us, creepily, with her desperate loyalty for Count Dracula (sinister Michael Barr). Renfield, the “madwoman,” is constantly on-stage, many times in the shadows, never allowing us to forget that something sinister is lurking in the dark, soon to be revealed.
Maria Grazia Affinito (Renfield)
“The creative team spares no horrors. Bravo to all Lunatico’s”.
Read the full review by Rachel Norby at Theatrius.
See our Dracula production gallery here!
July 9, 2018
Shakespeare Says, “Get Over Sex Obsession!”
by Tyler Jeffreys
Think a fusion of Mad Max, The Purge, and The White House all in one. Theatre Lunatico uses Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” to create a surreal post-apocalyptic world. In this world,sex surrounds the citizens but is against the law (unless you’re married). Scraps and trash hang on the walls along with sharp weapons, the world looks like a violent wasteland. Angelo—he’s no angel– worries about who is having sex, when his world needs a literal environmental clean up job.
Women in supporting roles are the highlights the show. Lucio, a devious jokester, (boisterous Shawn Oda), frolics and taunts the authorities. It’s refreshing to see a woman playing such an energetic and sexually charged role as she hits on men and women, alike, energetically.
“Women in supporting roles are the highlights the show”.
James Aaron Oh (Claudio) & Keara Reardon (Juliet)
Costume designer, Cierra White gives the trickster baggy cargo jeans adorned with pins a mesh top with deathly skull heads. As Lucio, Oda uses Shakespeare’s innuendos to grab her crotch, repeatedly. Having a blast, she thoroughly entertains with his/her over the top physicality.
Jean Cary plays a over-zealous Constable Elbow, a ditsy cop on the prowl for sex criminals. She sports a southern red-neck accent and an American Flag handkerchief. Cary delivers her comic lines so naturally, they sound fresh and news. Even when she is not talking I can’t help but watch her eyes as she takes in Lucio’s antics. Elbow twitches or bangs her night-stick against the wall in rebellion or agreement. Her comedic timing and heartfelt dialogue light up the stage.
“Cary delivers her comic lines so naturally, they sound fresh and new.”
March 18, 2018, Theatrius
Bryony Lavery, Tina Taylor Sing of Seafaring Women
by Barry David Horwitz
The British nuclear submarine silently shadowed the Russian sub Kursk, on 12 August 2000. In fact, there were three subs circling each other, British, Russian, and U.S., each pretending they are not there. The UK and US ships could have helped save 118 men, but they maintained their silence.
If you want to dive below, under the Arctic Ocean, over by Russia in the Barents Sea, then hustle over to La Val’s Subterranean Theater, for a plunge into these icy, enlightening waters.
“Lavery and Director Taylor string a taught bow that chills our blood. “Kursk” makes for disquieting, intense theater.”
Lauri Smith, Shawn Oda & Melissa Clason. All photographs by Robin Jackson
Down the steep stairs, we join six women in the Trafalgar-Class Hunter-Killer sub, amid the low murmur of engines. Stunning arrangements of aluminum pipes create cramped quarters for six Royal British sailors. Originally written for men in 2009, British playwright Bryony Lavery has left the hatch open for an all-female cast. Director Tina Taylor enters with gusto, bringing Theatre Lunatico magic.
“As they slip and slide through the narrow hatches, circling round ducts and pipes, they evoke the terror of the freezing waters.”
Isabelle Grimm, Shawn Oda, & Lauri Smith.
November 27, 2017, Theatrius, by Gilad Barach
Director Tina Taylor’s modernized version of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1777 classic “The School for Scandal” shifts its tone between explosive/ silly, hysterical/ grounded, and jarring/ intimate. Theatre Lunatico has recently moved into LaVal’s on Northside, Berkeley, and they are already at home. They manipulate the small space brilliantly, with a performance built for the place. The tightly packed theater adds to the “Scandal’s” rising tension—with gossip spreading quickly in the intimate space.
Continue reading Gilad Barach’s Theatrius review.
Theatre Lunatico Artistic Director Tina Taylor was recently interviewed by Theatre critic, Sam Hurwitt, for the November issue of The Monthly, a magazine on culture in the East Bay. The article focuses on Theatre Lunatico’s move into the Subterranean Theater at La Val’s Pizza in Berkeley, the company’s upcoming season of productions, and future plans for the space.
Theatre Lunatico moves in to the La Val’s space on September 1, 2017!
We’re moving from our humble, nomadic accommodations to our very own black box theatre, complete with pizza & a pint!
Theatre Lunatico produces big theatre in small spaces, and we have big plans for this small venue beneath the pizzeria. We intend to establish a laboratory space for physical ensemble theatre, providing classes, performance opportunities, discussions, workshops, and a vibrant gathering hub for theatre artists, poets, musicians, dancers & more.
But we have a lot of work to do! With enormous thanks to Theatre Bay Area for our Cash Grant, we can get started on vital work in the space, but it is essential that we match those funds through other sources!
Our first priority—the theatre needs a new floor. The current floor is concrete, the worst possible surface for physical ensemble work.
And just as our feet would like to dance on a softer surface, our heads would like to be adequately illuminated! Lighting needs to be upgraded, and backstage and audience realms need a little primping…
What can you do to help us achieve our goals?
- Join a work party in August and/or September (emphasis on work AND party)!
- Make a donation. Cash is always nice!
- Produce or sponsor one of our shows!
- Emptying your garage? Maybe that old shelving unit or sofa could be useful…
- OR updating your office and have old computers, laptops…?
We’re building from the ground up!
Last seen in Theatre Lunatico’s production of Macbeth, we now find Fleance, Lennox & Macbeth getting down to business—dusting & mopping the new space!