Revenge Is Served in the Basement
Brutal anger and resentment resonate through subterranean downtown as Shakespeare’s brutal Titus Andronicus descends into the Underground Collaborative. Voices Found Repertory lashes into one of Shakespeare’s most aggressive dramas with a delicate balance of drama and brutality.
Young Maya Danks exudes honor and nobility in the title role. She wields respectable gravity as a returning Roman hero who has returned having defeated the Goths in battle. When offered rulership over Rome, passing the crown instead to Saturnine. Kyle Connor makes a striking contrast against Danks. Connor plays nauseating privilege with smartly hollow poise, carrying himself with a dignified pomposity befitting someone with all the posture of nobility but few of its virtues.
Robin Lewis wears cold emotionless detachment in the role of the fallen queen of the Goths who is chosen to rule Rome alongside Saturnine as his wife. She and her sons plot revenge against Titus and the ugly violence, dismemberment and death commence.
The intimate stage of the Arcade Theatre in the Underground Collaborative has the ability to bring the ugliness of bloody revenge uncomfortably close to the audience. Director Hannah Kubiak doesn’t shy away from the horror of it all, but she isn’t exactly embracing the delicious grotesqueness of it all. There’s just enough of it there to enhance the drama without distracting from it.
Alexis Furseth is right in the heart of that drama as Titus’ daughter Lavinia. Furseth takes the character through quite a journey...playing it cool and confident as the play opens, then terrified after being the victim of rape and dismemberment before finally landing on desperation as she tries to communicate the identity of her attackers without the benefit of hands or a tongue. Furseth has such compelling attraction in the role. Her performance makes one wonder why Shakespeare didn’t make Lavinia the center of the story. Her inspiring struggle is much more compelling than all of the grim revenge that the drama where so much of the rest of the script focuses on. Of course, victims of rape stepping forward and naming their accusers have added resonance with the emergence of the Me Too era. Furseth’s transformation over the course of the play is inspiring even if the play spends far more time telling other ends of the story.
Teddi Jules Gardener has a strong leading male quality about him in the role of Shakespeare’s triumphant hero Lucius--son of Titus. Gardner’s valiance as a man of honor looking for revenge hangs quite proudly around the center of the drama. Also serving with great, heroic poise on the side of Titus is the magnetic Jessica Trznadel as Titus’ brother Marcus. Trznadel carries herself with a steadfast grace and poise in poetry as one of the honorable ones.
As with any production of Shakespeare, some of the most striking performances slide in around the corners of the central plot. Of particular note here is Brittany Faye Byrnes as the treacherous Moore named Aaron. Aaron is kind of a marginal character in the plot, but Byrnes makes quite an impression--gliding through the poetry of villainy as deft as a perfectly balanced razor. She and Furseth cast some dazzling light into the corners of a satisfying production.
Voices Found Repertory’s production of Titus Andronicus runs through Oct. 7th at The Underground Collaborative on 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. For ticket reservations and more, visit Voices Found Online. Tonight they have a special hangout-with-the-cast fundraiser at MobCraft which looks like a lot of fun. They'll be there after tonight's show from 10 pm to midnight.
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