Tragedy! A word was spoken from the troubled soul of men placed on a world without form voided; and where darkness was upon the face of the deep. These words were spoken about the beginning of time, but the essence of these words still has validity. Tragedy has tormented humanity to its core, causing many to place the trepidation of life into poetic tragedies so that history could feel the pain of the past. Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles were famous playwrights of Greek tragedies. They were popular and influential for their plays, Agamemnon, Antigone, Medea, Hippolytus, and Oedipus Rex.
Court Theater brings to the stage, Oedipus Rex, one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. This Athenian tragedy by Sophocles was written some 1600 years ago tells of a prophecy in which Oedipus, the King of Thebes, would kill his father, King Laius, and marry his mother, Jocasta. Oedipus would unknowingly take her as his queen after solving the riddle of the Sphinx. A plague has fallen upon the citizens of Thebes due to King Laius’ murderous foretelling, and they beseech the new King to help end this plague and save his people, for they saw him as liken to the Gods. Oedipus, the child whose ankles were pinned together when he was an infant to thwart the prophecy that he would kill Laius and sent away to be killed. Oedipus’s strong leadership is seen when the priest of the chorus suggests he seeks out Tiresias, the blind prophet, which he has already summoned.
As most Greek tragedies end with the catharsis of misery and despair, Oedipus learns that the killer he seeks to find can be seen within, for he is him that has killed the man, his father, the King. His wife and now the knowledge that she is also his mother, Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus, horrified at his patricide and incest, proceeds to gouge out his own eyes in despair. Translated by Nicholas Rudall and directed by Charles Newell, The Oedipus Trilogy represents a new era to the Court’s commitment of bringing to the classic stage theatre for the contemporary audience. The theatrical setting is an all-white religious greek oracle which seems to resemble the inside of an Athenian Parthenon.
Kelvin Roston Jr,’ who plays Oedipus, is a rare talent. He shined in King Hedley, as the ex-con trying to rebuild his life and as Levee, the talented, hot-headed trumpeter that wouldn’t let anyone get in the way of his dreams. Roston also showed us the diversity of his talent in other performances like Five Guys Named Moe, Seven Guitars, and Porgy, and Bess. He is exceptional as Oedipus. Roston continues to display to the theater-gods that he is a must-have performer that not only can carry any role he plays, but thrive and excel. Broadway needs to gaze their eyes upon his unique talent, for he is at the upper echelon of performers in Chicago. Court Theatre is wise to bring Roston back for its second installment of this trilogy.
Another treat was the role of Kate Collins as Jocasta, (who also starred in the dual roles of Natalie and Janet in All My Children) the unknown wife to her son, Oedipus, whom she sought to kill to end the prophecy of her husband’s death by the hands of her son. Collins, who brings a regal appearance to the stage, brought vivacity to the role of Jocasta. Timothy Edward Kane, as Creon, always captivates the audience with his dialogue and presence. Christopher Donahue’s witty portrayal of Teiresias, the blind prophet who knows the horrific prophecy of Oedipus, has already come true but doesn’t want to say what he knows. Sheldon D. Brown, as Priest, Aeriel Williams as Antigone and Kai Ealy as Death Messenger, added to the Greek tragedy essence of Oedipus.
With that said, Oedipus Rex does have moments where it seems to lose its direction, and the performing cast moaning and groans at times tend to have no purposeful intent. The role of the Chorus in Oedipus Rex is very significant. They provide an atmosphere, create a sense of fear or suspense, and brings credence to the tragic action.
You have to enjoy greek tragedies where misery and pain is the ending result of the story or read up on this play. Either way, the plot even today is the same, that pride goes before the fall and humanity and the fear of how we envision the unknown. For those that love Greek tragedies, Court Theater will bring this second installment in the Oedipus Trilogy, The Gospel at Colonus, in May 2020.
Let’s Play Recommends Oedipus Rex at Court Theatre.
Court Theatre Presents
Translated by Nicholas Rudall
Directed by Charles Newell
November 7 – December 8, 2019
Filed under: ChicagoNow