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Monday, October 11, 2010

SL ARTS & LITERATURE: Avatar Repertory Presents Timeless OEDIPUS REX

The Avatar Repertory Theater has one more weekend of performances remaining to their latest production, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, and it is a performance well worth your time and your $L. Fresh on the heels of a sellout performance of Alice in WonderSland, Avatar Repertory Theater explores a battle between fate, power, and love through the ancient story of King Oedipus and Queen Jocasta. Audiences will be immersed in ancient Thebes, which has been brought to life in vibrant color by the Avatar Repertory creative team.
Producer Ada Radius has written a new adaptation of this everlasting Athenian tragedy that was first performed in 429 BC at the Theater of Dionysus in Athens. Ms. Radius also directs the production and says, "Oedipus is about sex, death and religion. I hope we disturb everyone."

I have to admit that when a friend suggested that I attend, before I began writing for SLE, my immediate response was “I am not really feeling ‘Oedipal’ these days.” Two thousand year old Greek tragedy is typically one of those things that sends first and second year drama school students ducking for cover in fear of a pop quiz or mid-term exam. I was one of those once and the knee-jerk reaction remains. But Oedipus Rex is about so much more than a final grade, or dusty dramaturgy. At the heart of it, it is a tale of fate, free will, and our own human conceits regarding them.

Fate is a theme that often occurs in Greek writing, tragedies in particular. The idea that attempting to avoid predestined fate is the very thing which brings it about is a common motif. Even the ancient Greeks could not agree about fate. That is part of what keeps a play like Oedipus Rex relevant to a modern audience – we still debate this idea today. Playwrights like Aeschylus and Euripides wrote plays in which the fate is conditional – the fated destiny may come about if... Sophocles chooses to make fate unconditional in Oedipus Rex, and removes culpability for his sins from the protagonist: he could not have done other than what he did, no matter what action he took.

It was foretold by an oracle that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother. Despite his efforts to avoid that prediction, Oedipus unwittingly has does just that. All the events that affect the action of the play have taken place before the play commences with the people of Thebes appealing to their King for help in ending a plague on the City – the God’s punishment for the unknown criminal in their midst. The evil has been perpetrated, the damage done, even though those involved do not realize it. In Oedipus Rex we see the truth of the oracle revealed, and we see how those who receive that truth deal with it. It is often how we respond to tragedy that shapes our destinies more than the inevitable reality that tragedies happen. Oedipus goes from confident monarch and loving husband, to wretched and exiled by his own decree. That is the journey of the play.

This is a very satisfying piece of theatre. The Avatar Repertory Theatre has once again challenged themselves to push the boundaries of Second Life to produce a transformative event. Ada Radius’ script and direction are clear and accessible. She successfully brings the language out of the forms of Sophocles’ time into a more modern cadence, without losing touch with its ancient roots. The show is an economic hour long, and since the ancient Greek theatre was an all day event back in the day, I can assure you that Sophocles original play is not that short. The audience itself is cast as the people of Thebes, gathered to behold the unraveling of their royal family. The participatory animations are appropriate and delightful during the choral intervals between major scenes. Rowan Shamroy connects the audience effectively with the players, serving as the traditional Greek Chorus role for the piece. Oedipus Rex features Joff Fassnacht as King Oedipus and MadameThespian Underhill as Queen Jocasta. Rounding out the cast are Kayden Oconnell, Thundergas Menges, Em Jannings, and Elegia Underwood (cover). All give strong vocal performances, with Fassnacht carrying the burden of Oedipus’ arc from top-of-the-world to bottom-of-the-heap with strength and pathos. Voices are strong, characters well realized. The technical elements, scripting, design, music and sound are all very skillfully rendered, and provide just the right amount of support without upstaging the performances of the players. As a theatrical designer, I always look for production designs that still let the language and the story be the focus – and this one does so brilliantly.

Avatar Repertory does a better job than anyone I have ever seen of providing information to the audience that helps increase their enjoyment of an excellent virtual theatrical event through on-site instruction and audience management.  One bit of advice. I made the mistake of not wearing headphones during the performance, or kicking in my outboard speakers which are better than my regular computer speakers. This meant that, even despite the excellent instruction in how to manage the volume of the individual player’s voices that was given to the entire audience, when emotions ran high and actors pushed their microphone’s I lost beautiful words and phrases passionately delivered. Had I worn headphones, I could have run all the volumes at a much lower level overall and avoided that.

If you love a thought provoking, well-told tale go see Oedipus Rex. Remaining performances are Saturday, October 16th at 3pm and Sunday, October 17th at 2pm. All times SLT (PST).

Tickets will be available at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Sagittata/131/96/39, for L$500 (about US $2.50).

Oedipus Promo Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnW26MiYu3w
A.R.T. Blog: http://avatarrepertorytheater.blogspot.com/
A.R.T. website: http://www.avreptheater.com

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed above are mine and mine alone.  They do not of necessity reflect the views or opinions of the Sl Enquirer.  If you want a different opinion, you will surely find on at the market or on your friends list, and it would be just as valid.


~Caledonia Skytower, Reporting
"Any ink is good ink, even if it is virtual"
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