August 15— September 23, 2003
Directed by Frédérique Michel
Production Design by Charles A. Duncombe
Cast: Maureen Byrnes, Simon Burzynski, Tina Fallon, David E. Frank, Eric Jung, Jennifer Piehl, Jason Piazza, Thomas Ramirez, Paul M. Rubenstein
August 22, 2003
by David C. Nichols
Symbolist tactics and City of Angels targets mutate throughout “OedipusText: Los Angeles” in Santa Monica. This adroit City Garage deconstruction imbues Sophocles’ ageless saga of the incestuous king of Thebes with modern elements ranging from self-help to trip-hop. It transpires, as usual with this company, in a self-contained abstract ethos. Author-designer Charles A. Duncombe draws Jocasta’s lines from Helene Cixous’ opera “The Name of Oedipus: Song of the Forbidden Body,” but his esoteric text is otherwise original and impressive. Fredereque Michel’s staging of this melange of neoclassical restraint, shock-radio sass and Freudian polemic attains droll kinetic cohesion, moving a unified ensemble around Duncombe’s screen-dominated minimalist set with invisible ease. Duncombe’s concentrated lighting, Paul M. Rubenstein’s wry videography and Teckla de Bistrovlnovska’s color-coded costumes are invaluable in locating the reference points. Simon Burzynksi’s intense hero is a leather-jacketed Tom Cruise Jr., while Maureen Byrnes’ Jocasta is a riveting column of white who recalls the late Irene Worth. Rubenstein’s sidesplitting DJ is scandalously effective, and David E. Frank is brilliant, whether playing a Nehru-dressed, rocker-voiced Tiresias or a shrieking Dr. Laura-esque harpy. Three red-capped gangbangers (Eric Jung, Jason Piazza and Thomas Ramirez) share chorus duties, alternating as isolated urbanites whose interactions with Tina Fallon’s brittle chat-room fraud and Jennifer Piehl’s unfettered online exhibitionist punctuate Oedipus’ downward spiral. However, their visceral maneuvers just miss pathos: The compressed ideology is intellectually arresting but emotionally bloodless. Even so, the group aesthetic is imposing, analogous to (though opposite from) Sons of Beckett’s current sendup “Oedipus the King,” which recommends “OedipusText” as a Greek reconsideration to be reckoned with.
August 21, 2003
by Steven Leigh Morris
Freud’s Oedipus complex is borrowed from Sophocles’ mystery; adaptor Charles A. Duncombe lobs the ball back into Sophocles’ court with an absorbing 90-minute shot propelled by modern psychology’s Papa. The plague upon Thebes is here sexual dysfunction in an L.A. of tomorrow: Internet and telephone romances that skirt the terrors of flesh-to-flesh contact; porno and erotic power games all perverted from a primal, forbidden love of mama. Unlike in Sophocles’ play, Oedipus’ mom, Jocasta (the fine Maureen Byrnes), knows what’s going on, and merely waits for Oedipus (Simon Burzynski) to figure it out. Blind prophet Tiresias (the excellent David E. Frank) morphs into a drag queen who imposes glib S&M fetishes on Oedipus. (It’s a delicate line between myth and cliché, and this production wobbles between the two.) Duncombe takes a gamble by diffusing the murder-mystery and relegating the play to a semipolitical recitative. A shock jock (Paul Rubenstein) — a passé device — serves as chorus leader for an analysis that’s more or less narrated by the entire ensemble. (It can be argued that Oedipus’ bewildered soul is actually disseminated among a quartet of characters who are looking for love in all the wrong places.) Rubenstein’s video collages (the hull of a ‘50s convertible stranded in South-Central, a woman’s breast, an upper thigh) play in stark counterpoint to the argument on the boards that modern alienation — exacerbated by consumerism and high tech — has roots in antiquity. Frederíque Michel’s arch staging elegantly complements Duncombe’s rhetorical text (with segments by Helene Cixous). When the actors get it, the event soars, but then callow performances diminish its altitude. Still, the underlying idea, however blemished, is a provocative provocation, and attention seldom wanes.