I’m so blessed to have the family I have. Are we imperfect? Of course. Do we bicker? No doubt. But we are also endlessly loving. I spent Labor Day Weekend in St. Louis visiting extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We ate too much this weekend, celebrated no fewer than four birthdays and anniversaries, and enjoyed each other’s presence. And if you were wondering, there are few things better than eating a homemade brownie in your Granny’s pretty, bright sunroom.
My friend Greg (who I just did Hamlet with) also happens to be from St. Louis and was in town for the weekend. Greg’s friend Ron’s son was performing in a St. Louis Shakespeare performance of Titus Andronicus, so we went to see the notoriously gory classic last Saturday night. Though the gratuitous violence and below average writing (even the Bard had bad days) make this show less popular than its better-known counterparts, the deliciously vengeful final scene makes everything worth it. I won’t get into the details, but suffice to say the Game of Thrones creators might have taken note of the Roman tragedy when writing that iconic scene from the Season 6 finale. (Link contains a major spoiler, obvi).
As for the production itself, St. Louis Shakespeare (not to be confused with The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival), created an inventive and heart-wrenching show. The rotating set by Chuck Winning was impressive for a small company with two-week runs, and the original piano score (by Susan Kopp) emphasized the devastating losses that without overwhelming the scenes. Tamora (Suki Peters) was serving Khaleesi realness in both her high-slit Goth costume and fur-trimmed Roman Empress gown (costume design by Zahrah Agha). She was fierce in the role – fiercely protective of her family and fiercely ruthless towards everyone else. Darrious Varner, who played her lover and co-conspirator Aaron, performed the role with such devilish aplomb that the audience couldn’t help but like the villain, who famously declares, “Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things/ As willingly as one would kill a fly/And nothing grieves me heartily indeed/But that I cannot do ten thousand more.”
Chad Little as Titus Andronicus shined most in the second act, his conniving strategies seeping through a crazed and weakened exterior. Other standouts included Britteny Henry as a powerful and emotionally resonant Lavinia and Ted Drury and Michael Pierce as believably horrific Goth princes. The cast worked together cohesively, down to charming Young Lucius, played Ron’s son Riley James.
Another boon to this production were the cuts – seamless editing brought this play down to two hours, a delightful surprise for a Shakespearean tragedy. It was also a relief for someone who had promised to go to 9am Bikram Yoga with her dad the next day. This graphic tale of war, betrayal, and the consequences of vengeance closed on Sunday, but you can still catch the remainder of St. Louis Shakespeare’s season. More information on their website.
As I write this, I sit waiting in the St. Louis airport for our mysteriously delayed flight to board. The plane is here and I have good intel that says San Francisco is sunny and clear. Yet the airline is citing “weather issues” as the reason for the delay. (ETA: It turned out forest fire ash caused low visibility. I guess that’s a sort of weather?) Dad and I ain’t trippin’ though. We’re tired and a little annoyed but we know how to occupy ourselves with writing and the latest Allure to pass the time. I feel bad for the people traveling with young children; they have resorted to hopping about the gate in a game of invisible hopscotch. I’m so glad I don’t have kids. No offense. Hopefully, when I post this I will be back in the Bay Area, far away from the fluorescent overhead lighting and obnoxious “ambient” music of this chilly gate. Until then, I’m just grateful that I have people I love in my corner, and no one to exact bloody vengeance upon.
Love and theatre,