Thursday, August 20, 2009

review - Oedipus the King, Mama

Oedipus the King, Mama
Troubadour Theatre Co
directed by Matt Walker
Falcon Theatre
through September 27
Oedipus the King, Mama opens on a surprise note. Matt Walker, Beth Kennedy, Rick Batalla and Jen Seifert come out on stage in black dressy attire and announce that due to economic cuts they have no band and will engage the audience with a staged reading of the Sophocles tragedy. Then enters sexy bare-chested James Snyder as a Greek soldier. The 5 start to dispute the pointlessness of this entire change of format - "It's beneath me!" states Kennedy - and proceed to leave Walker alone onstage with a tiny black and white sketch he has drawn of the set, taped to a metal music stand in front of him. Walker looks out at the audience and throws up his arms. (Pause). GOT 'YA! It's just a joke. Now let the mayhem begin! A very bright and unexpected introduction, a nice change of pace - I loved it!
Then once the story starts unfolding, it's a good 20 minutes before things really start to heat up. Yes, there is a very Monty Pythonesque Greek chorus and a wonderful Elvis costume and pompadour wig for Walker, who, as always is a creative genius onstage with his constant ad-libs, and some fine renditions of "Devil in Disguise", "Return to Sender", "Suspicious Minds" and "Teddy Bear". But, despite the off-the-wall efforts of Walker and fabulous cutup Rick Batalla as Creon, things really don't start to COOK until Kennedy makes her first entrance as Jocasta. Bewildered and attracted simultaneouly, Walker as Oedipus sucks from...well, I won't ruin it for you, but suffice to say, raw humor and a heavy emphasis on the grotesque dominate the show. At one point, perplexed beyond reason at how to explain their unnatural relationship to Oedipus, Jocasta heads into the audience as if in a trance, makes her way slowly along the front rows and then unexpectedly scales the bannister, with the agility of a monkey, to the top row - and low and behold - yours truly became a character in the play on opening night. Walker shouted, "Don't pick Don Grigware! He'll write about this!" Funny, funny stuff! Kennedy sat in my lap, grabbed my notes and delivered a rapid-fire ad-lib about my likes and dislikes of the show to that point. Lies, lies, all lies! There were a lot of laughs, and, thanks to the resourcefully brilliant Beth Kennedy, it was a terrific bit of comic relief to help lighten the horrorific plotline that follows: Jocasta's suicide and Oedipus' undoing that entails gauging out his eyes! In true Troubie fashion, blood spills and squirts everywhere, and so typical in Greek tragedy, it's just one mess after another!
A double tribute at the end to the King of Rock and Roll and a special one to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson with "Beat It" really blew the audience away.
Praise to Lisa Valenzuela, Mike Sulprizio, and the entire ensemble, and once again, it was great to see James Snyder dance and sing the Young Oedipus/Elvis. He has an exciting future in musical theatre.
All in all, Oedipus is not the Troubie masterpiece that were last season's offerings - Alice and As You Like It, but, nonetheless, whatever the Troubies create adds a touch of color to the horizon. And considering the depressing nature of Sophocles, what better way to explore it than through the wild, freaky interpretation of the deliciously crazy Troubadour Theatre Company! Always remember: Just a little bit of Troubie is better than no Troubie at all!
4 out of 5 stars


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