Review: ‘Titus Andronicus’ Spotlights Blood, Butchery, The Bard

Titus Andronicus
"Titus Andronicus," A Pinnacle Acting Company production,

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 16, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — One of William Shakespeare’s earliest, most bloody and least frequently produced tragedies has found new life in a Salt Lake City production.

Or new death, depending on point of view.

“Titus Andronicus” tells the fictional story of a Roman general who returns from 10 years at war with the Goths, bringing prisoners, and is asked to choose which of the late emperor’s two sons will take over the throne.

One merciless decision sparks a plot for revenge, a the guilt-free murder and mayhem increases exponentially from that point onward.

This Pinnacle Acting Company adaptation of the show, by director L.L West, is set in the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility for Women, with all roles played by female inmates, and with occasional assists from a couple of surly female guards.

“Titus Andronicus” is widely regarded as one of The Bard’s worst plays. So why not set a not-so-great, over-the-top play in a facility populated by violent, law-breaking personalities? What is there to lose?

The result is a disturbingly amusing spectacular of of bloodshed.

To keep the nearly bare stage from flooding with fake blood, in fact, the director made a choice to handle the blood flow in a focused and dramatic way you likely haven’t seen before.

Severed body parts are seen or suggested, and the guards, Bull I and Bull II, track of the carnage in a way that adds a sports-like flair to proceedings.

This production is disturbing, but it’s also a hoot. People who will enjoy it the most are those who can handle that disparate combination, which is laced with wry social commentary and peppered with individual human failings.

This is not a show for children or for people who get squeamish when blood is spilled, literally.

Standouts in the strong cast include April Fossen in the title role of the victorious general in a steep decline; Melanie Nelson as the sultry, devious Queen of the Goths, who marries for power despite her passion for Aaron, a manly player portrayed by Dee-Dee Darby Duffin; and Anne Louise Brings as Lavinia, as a daughter, a lover and a victim.

Tamara Howell adds an unlikely goofiness to the role of conscience-free Saturninus; and adding the conscious to the drama are Holly Fowers as Lucius, Titus’ son, and Betsy West as Marcus, Titus’ brother.

Go if you want to see something like you’ve never seen before. And sit in the front row for a chance to join the fray.

The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through June 25, and 2 p.m. June 25 at the Westminster College Jewett Center for the Performing Arts (downstairs), at 1250 E. 1700 South, Salt Lake City.

Tickets are $18; $15 for students and seniors with I.D., and for the matinee. Group rates are available, but call ahead to arrange it.

To purchase tickets online, click here. To ask questions about group or individual tickets, call 801-810-5793.


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