OEDIPUS EL REY
REVIEWS & COMMENTS
'Oedipus el Rey' review: Miracle Theatre Group cast and director rise to the level of a most-challenging work
Alive with elemental passion and brutality, the Miracle Theatre Group's production ofplaywright Luis Alfaro's brilliant "Oedipus el Rey" gives director Elizabeth Huffman and her cast a chance to demonstrate they can rise to the level of even this most challenging work.
The strict social code of the ancient Greek society of Sophocles' original Oedipus play transfers easily to this slice of present-day California Chicano culture, where neighborhoods are ruled by powerful gangs who function as de facto royalty.
The story follows the ambitious rise of a modern-day Oedipus. Played by a flawlessly centered Nick Ortega, who has such a command of his onstage space he seems at times to be dancing as much as acting, his character aspires to be not just a king, but a god. Such arrogance, naturally, does not go unpunished.
The original Oedipus play, written around four centuries before Christ, naturally has an ancient feel, and Alfaro's modern version, and the Miracle production, replicate that feel. While actors José E. González, Marco Garcia Ballaré, and Osvaldo "Ozzie" González are effective in their individual roles, they are all the more powerful when they join with Anthony Green, Rick Huddle, and Enrique E. Andrade to form the chorus. Then they become the primal group of men who represent strength, who protect the tribe, who enforce the rules.
The lighting (designed by Kristeen Willis Crosser) and sound (by designer and composer Sharath Patel) continue the primitive, abrupt rhythm: one moment we are in a mythic and dark place as Oedipus, in fear for his life, is ordered to answer the riddle of the Sphinx (there are three of them, wearing masks from a nightmare); an instant later the light is clean and bright and the sprightly pop song "Chapel of Love" is heard..
The original play opens upon an Oedipus who has already done the work of killing his father and marrying his mother. It's as if, even in that ancient civilization, the violation of these fundamental taboos was too awful to entertain, except as memory..
Undaunted, Alfaro has forged into this territory. He makes us looks as Oedipus beats his father to death and, even more horrifyingly, as he has sex with his mother, Jocasta. It doesn't help that Olga Sanchez plays her with a sensual yearning and sorrow that lightens after she couples with her son. The playwright constantly winks at us with the fact that we in the audience know the truth, unlike the characters onstage. "All the empty spaces inside of me, it's as if they were always yours," says Jocasta, as her son's lover. The effect on the audience is wicked. There is pleasure in holding critical and secret information. We share in the taboo because we know too much, and we haven't looked away.
Lisa Ann Mitchell
Karen McCandless Buck
Gangs and the Myth of Fate - Join the Conversation!
Sponsored by Oregon Humanities following each Sunday matinee of Luis Alfaro's play Oedipus el Rey at el Centro Milagro. This conversation program is FREE and open to the public!
Sunday, May 6, 4:15pm - Exploring the Myth of Fate
In the Culture and drama of ancient Greece, playwright Luis Alfaro found resonanace for the modern cycle of gang involvement. What beliefs about fate did the ancient Greeks hold as truth? What parallels did playwright Luis Alfaro draw between the Oedipus story and modern gang life?
Panelists include: Elizabeth Huffman, director, Oedipus el Rey; Dr. Richard Wattenberg, Professor of Theatre, PSU; and other invited guests.
Sunday, May 13, 4:15pm - The Lure of Gangs
In Oedipus el Rey, young men seek power within the only society in which they thrive. With power earned by earned by violence and ruthlessness comes the respect and financial gain they cannot achieve elsewhere. What "romantic" notions draw young people to gang life? What strategies keep youth from getting involved?
Panelists include: Elena García Velasco, Portland's Teacher of the Year, Roosevelt High School; Angel Ocasio, Portland Police officer; Carlos J. Crespo, PSU, Community Health & Public affairs; and other invited guests.
Sunday, May 20, 4:15pm - A Gangster's Destiny
May 4 to 26, 2012
Josie Mendoza &
* Member, Actors Equity Association
Miracle Theatre Group 425 SE 6th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97214 503-236-7253
Miracle Theatre Group