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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Titus Andronicus
Rome is but a wilderness of tigers.— Titus<
Photo: Bruce Cromer as Titus with soldiers of Rome (Photo credit: Jerry Dalia)
Titus Andronicus  is said to have wowed its first audiences with its unrelievedly lurid and bloody action. To be sure, it is the avalanche of absurdly monstrous slicing and dicing that burdens this un-poetic play that make it worth playing at all. That is why this first and pretty awesome production in forty years at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is such a welcomed event. It's good to report that the bloody and sensational values of Titus are fully respected and sportingly confronted.

  There is nothing timid about director Brian B. Crowe's bloody good staging, including a text that I suspect has not been dismembered. All of the dramatic vitals within this chronicle about a proud Roman family awash in vile associations and dastardly deeds are intact. The success of Titus  rests with a company able to circumvent its horrifically motivated characters. No need to worry in this regard as all appear to be going full out for the obligatory sturm und drang and without a worry in their heads (while they still have them) about making sense out of the mayhem.

  I suspect that Titus  is meant to be fun. After all, if we are not entitled to enjoy fine poetry or a substantial plot, let us then be entertained, as we are, with some genuinely revolting and grotesque sights. Crowe makes sure that the blood flows freely (even though it is showered about as chopped up red paper petals.) Considering that more than half the cast, including their personal and assorted appendages will have been removed by the play's end, Crowe's vision of the prescribed atrocities is pleasingly palatable.

  The action takes place in the midst of designer Dick Block's impressively surreal setting of ancient Rome, eerily enhanced by Andrew Hungerford's lighting. A pair of gigantic swords hover over the dreary landscape bordered by a metal wall implanted with spikes. Completing the ominous vision is a huge helmet-like structure that also serves as a cave as well as a mountain.

  In this terrain, we witness how the aging, well-meaning Roman Commander Titus  (Bruce Cromer) unwittingly becomes the target respectively of the ambitious newly pronounced Emperor Saturnius (Benjamin Eakely), captive wife Tamora (Vanessa Morosco) Queen of the Goths and her treacherous lover the Moor Aaron (Chris White). Also destined to be undone with floggings and hackings or worse are Titus's daughter Lavinia (Fiona Robberson) and the sons of both Titus and Tamora.

  Lavinia's rape by Tamora's heavily tattooed sons is notable for the way it is abstractly depicted, a shocking prelude to her speedily processed reappearance sans hands and tongue. All the actors are to be commended for the way they make the text sound reasonably cogent even when it veers towards parody. Designer Yao Chen's mixed and amusingly unmatched costumes contained just the right touches of gauche to compliment the prescribed terrors of the time.

  I liked the way a crew of street-cleaners are kept busy sweeping up the guts and the garbage as it was dispensed. Notwithstanding the high caliber of acting throughout, I especially liked the way Robert Cuccioli, as Titus's stabilizing brother Marcus, advanced the occasional semblance of sanity within a world gone insane. The fine artistic choices made by Crowe and his ensemble make this very difficult play an unexpectedly enjoyable experience.


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Titus Andronicus By William Shakespeare Directed by Brian B. Crowe
Cast: Benjamin Eakely (Saturninus), Oliver Archibald (Bassianus, Soldier), Bruce Cromer (Titus), Robert Cuccioli (Marcus), Clark Scott Carmichael (Lucius), Braden Spear (Quintus, Publius), Jackson Knight Pierce (Martius), Emery Lawrence (Mutius), Fiona Robberson (Lavinia), AJ DeAugustine (Young Lucius), Vanessa Morosco (Tamora), Chris White (Aaron), Brent Comer (Alarbus), Quentin McCuiston (Chiron), Courtney McGowan (A Clown), Kyle Walton (Aemilius), Elizabeth Colwell (A Nurse), Dylan Ruggiero (Sempronius), Juliet Perrell McCarthy (Caius).
Scenic Design: Dick Block
Costume Design: Yao Chen
Lighting Design: Andrew Hungerford
Sound Design: Karin Graybash
Production Stage Manager: Kathy Snyder
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes including intermission
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Main Stage, 36 Madison Avenue (on the campus of Drew University at Lancaster Road), Madison, N.J.
Performances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm; Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.
From 07/18/18 Opened 07/21/18 Ends 08/05/18
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/24/18 NJ CONNECTIONS
NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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