Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Pearl Theater Company's "The Oedipus Cycle"

Last night I watched all three Theban plays by Sophocles, one after another: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. The performance lasted about three hours, with a ten-minute intermission between each play. The experience of watching three tragedies in a row approximated that of Sophocles's audience, who would watch a tragedian's trilogy (and a satyr play) in one day of the Dionysian festival, and then come back for another playwright's tetralogy the next day.

Sophocles did not write his three plays for the same festival. Antigone is the earliest of the three, followed by Oedipus Rex, and then Oedipus at Colonus. Written earliest, Antigone is the weakest of the three, and so last night ended somewhat anti-climactically. The translation (a world premiere) for the performance is by Peter Constantine. It is direct and modern, without lapsing into untoward colloquialism, though I missed the poetry of the Fitzgerald translation.

Eight actors took on all the parts. The acting was very uneven. The older actors and the women were better than the young men. TJ Edwards, as the aged Oedipus in the middle play, was terrifically moving and grand. In Antigone, he was very funny as the cowardly and verbose messenager. Dominic Cuskern was a suitably sober Choragos, with a quiet and expressive voice that tuned the ear to its pitch, rhythm and volume. Jolly Abraham was heartrending as Jocaste, and Antigone in Oedipus at Colonus, though she faded as the same character in the last play. Susan Heyward's highpoint was as the Second Messenger in Oedipus Rex, reporting on Jocaste's suicide, and Oedipus's self-blinding. Jay Stratton's acting was very naive, and one could not believe his younger Oedipus, and his Theseus. John Livingstone Rolle who played Creon in all three plays had a severely limited range of expressions.

No comments: