The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0358 Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Date: Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Subject: Titus Redux
The following appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
Shakespeare's 'Titus Andronicus' returns to battle
By Mike Boehm
Los Angeles Times
August 29, 2010
But in this staging at Kirk Douglas Theatre, the Roman warrior is recast as an
American general who has warred with the Taliban.
What could be more quintessentially convivial than a Greenwich Village bartender
chatting with a regular customer? That's how John Farmanesh-Bocca and Jack
Stehlin came to know each other.
Now, at a remove of 15 years and 3,000 miles, they've reunited to put on a play
that is one of the least convivial dramas ever written: "Titus Andronicus."
With Farmanesh-Bocca as adaptor and director, Stehlin plays the titular Roman
warrior as a traumatized American general back from fighting not the Goths but
the Taliban. William Shakespeare's double-barreled revenge tragedy comes already
stocked with rape, limb-shearings, head-loppings and an unspeakable climactic
culinary triumph. By bringing it all back home, this joint production of
Farmanesh-Bocca's Not Man Apart - Physical Theatre Ensemble and Stehlin's Circus
Theatricals may strike audiences at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as even more
harrowing than the Bard's original.
It's titled "Titus Redux" to signify the extreme liberties taken with the text
and its waking-nightmare staging. Although the bulk of the lines are straight
from Shakespeare, Farmanesh-Bocca, who also plays Titus' nemesis, Aaron, has
invented flashback scenes that return the general to the heat of combat.
[ . . . ]
In the most radical change from Shakespeare's original, in which Tamora begins
as Titus' prisoner of war and quickly becomes the empress of Rome, Farmanesh-
Bocca envisions the two characters as an American husband and wife. "Titus
Redux" becomes the story of a marriage that goes horribly wrong and an attempt
to grapple with what a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq is doing not only
to military families but also to America as a whole.
Farmanesh-Bocca, brimming with friendly energy even after a full day's
rehearsal, said he began with the idea that "a country that gets divided, that
has mistrust, begins to devour itself." And in today's fragmented America, it
bothered him that most citizens live as if the nation were not at war. "We've
been asked to disassociate from it and go about our lives and purchase things,
and forget about blood being spilled," said the director, whose older brother is
a military doctor who has served in Iraq. To remedy that, "I'm taking
[audiences] on a journey of madness with Titus. This is essentially a
The show springs from a chance reconnection between Farmanesh-Bocca and Stehlin
at a Westside health club.
[ . . . ]
Stehlin agrees with Farmanesh-Bocca that the show's telescoping of Shakespearean
ancient Rome into troubled 2010 America aims for something bigger than
topicality or political commentary. "I like the abstract connection to the
modern dilemma we're all in. If artists are good for anything, it's to explore
the question of what war is good for."
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