Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Barbara Hall and Bobbie Bell

Theater Downtown, Orlando

In 2010 A.D., ancient Rome is a bit tatty. Saturninius and Bassianus squabble over the throne, and more importantly, who will get cutie-pie Lavinia Andronicus . Her daddy Titus is a big time general, back after ten years in the field. Twenty of his 24 sons died under his command, and now he only wants retirement, raising cabbages. Before he hangs his hat there is one last bit of vengeance to wrap up — executing one of the Gothic princes dragged back as a souvenir. Saturninius frees and marries the prince’s mother, Tamora, boosting her from captive to empress in one short act. Tamora now plots revenge in a complicated and bloody story. Characters are lucky to get through a scene, with some of the minors dying two or three times as different supporting players. In the climatic cannibal pie scene, Shakespeare comes dangerously close to killing off the entire cast before the wrap-up soliloquy. This is NOT the sort of culture we want our impressionable young minds to absorb.

Set not quite far enough in the future to be believable, the punk rock stage and mascara-eyed Goths do give plausibility to the industrial soundtrack. Nitzer Ebb doesn’t get much airplay with the Bardic crowd, so a few ears were opened, at a minimum. The classic Elizabethan staging problem revolves around removing dead bodies. Here, with players dropping faster than junior security officers on Star Trek , bodies become so thick the vertical players must vigilantly avoid stepping on their prone fellows as they spear the next thespian.

Revenge is a messy business. If only Titus had spared the Goth prince, and done his civic duty. After all, the prince only killed one of Titus’ sons. Heck, the general did in a few himself, so what was the big deal? Titus should have shown a little mercy, and maybe thrown a party. He didn’t, he stood by his principals, and see where it got him — unlikely to ever have a decent retirement party.

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