A barren, white, angular stage sits before us (Scenic Design: John Culbert), begging to be filled with story. Moments later, the lights darken, and the set is replete with members of a Greek chorus adorned in flowy white clothing. They breathe with labored sighs, struggling forward as if to foreshadow the struggle and demise the tragedy demands. Suddenly, our king, Oedipus Rex ((Kelvin Roston, Jr.), arrives. Oedipus addresses us as well as the chorus with marked fervor. We are his townspeople, and the clouds of misfortune are upon us.
A classic Greek tragedy, Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex (translated by former/founding artistic director Nicholas Rudall) tells the famous tale of a man in search of truth, no matter the cost. His journey in the play begins as he seeks to find the murderer of the former king in order to heal the city from a severe plague. In his great pursuit of authenticity for the benefit of his people, he uncovers truths about himself, reverberated in the prophecies of the oracles, which point to his inevitable destruction. A play which questions the legitimacy of free-will, Oedipus Rex forces us to acknowledge the dichotomy of our own agency and destiny.
Design throughout the show is minimal, but radiantly intentional. Status is shown through costuming (Costume Design: Jacqueline Firkins), as Oedipus, the king, and Jocasta, the queen (Kate Collins ),are the only characters dressed in color. They are also linked—Oedipus’s golden embellishments on his purple cloak echo Jocasta’s dress in all gold showing his relation to her. Lighting helps dictate what role we play (Lighting Design: Keith Parham). In scenes in which Oedipus is addressing us, the house lights come up ever so slightly. When Jocasta and Oedipus speak in secret, the lights become dim. In moments when the chorus breaks into profound movement pieces (Movement Design: Erin Kilmurray), the lights are ominous. Furthermore, the orb light the chorus members carry cleverly echoes the characters’ obsession with their god, Apollo, the god of light.
Court Theatre Enlivens Classic with a Compelling Chorus Hivemind
The ensemble, in this viewer’s opinion, was highly energized and immensely tenacious (Director: Charles Newell). Their hivemind, devised movements were thoughtful, poignant, and sometimes even heartening. Most chorus members also had especially noteworthy stand-alone moments where they spoke as named characters such as Priest (Sheldon D. Brown), Death Messenger (Kai Ealy), and Teiresias (Christopher Donahue). The only downside, perhaps, was that this effortlessly strong chorus has an intensity that occasionally dwarfs the powerful, but occasionally less energized, performances of Oedipus and Jocasta.
For classic theatre lovers and skeptics alike, this is a must-see. You’ll no doubt leave with a greater appreciation of where this unthinkable tragedy in Sophocles’s canon fits into our world today.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Oedipus Rex), Timothy Edward Kane (Creon), Christopher Donahue (Teiresias/Chorus), Kate Collins (Jocasta), Stef Tovar (Theban Shepherd/Chorus), Kai Ealy (Death Messenger/Chorus), Wendy Robie (Corinth Shepherd/Chorus), Sheldon D. Brown (Priest of Zeus/Chorus), Mark Smith (Chorus Leader), Angie Shriner (Chorus), Jennifer Glasse (Chorus), Sonya Madrigal (Chorus), TayLar (Chorus), and Aeriel Williams (Antigone/Chorus).
John Culbert (Scenic Design), Jacqueline Firkins (Costume Design), Keith Parham (Lighting Design), Andre Pluess (Sound Design), and Christopher LaPorte (Co-Sound Design).
Through December 08, 2019
Wed/Thurs/Fri: 7:30 p.m.
Sat/Sun: 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
5535 S. Ellis Ave
About the Author:
Lauren Lynch is a Chicago-based theatremaker by night and education administrator by day. She has undergraduate degrees in Theatre and English from Austin Peay State University and an MFA in Arts Administration from Texas Tech University. When she's not at work or seeing/creating theatre, you can find her enthusiastically playing board games with friends or stealing cuddles from her dog, Harry Pupper.