Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Oedipus Cycle


By Sophocles. Dir. Shepard Sobel. Pearl Theatre Company. (CLOSED)

Critics universally hailed the ambition of the Pearl Theatre Company's all-in-one-sitting compendium of Sophocles' three Oedipus plays—and found some degree of vitality and passion missing from the resulting evening. Many, but certainly not all, critics seemed to like Peter Constantine's new translation but found the direction and the acting variable.

Back Stage B
(Karl Levett) [A] brave, ambitious attempt...While the intentions of this well-spoken production are commendable, each play suffers from its imposed brevity, for in the compression of each, much of an essential ingredient—passion—seems to have been squeezed out. The emphasis here is on sense rather than sensation, particularly the sensation of emotional release. The overall result is clear, clean, and cool, the heat generated is intellectual, and with these stories abounding in legendary psychological conundrums, there's plenty for the head if not the heart.

TheaterMania B-
(Barbara & Scott Siegel) This flawed production is compelling mostly because Peter Constantine's translation and Shepard Sobel's direction move relatively swiftly through what used to be a lugubrious, repetitive text...Where this production runs into trouble is in the uneven acting of its eight-member cast, all of whom play multiple roles.

NY Times C+
(Rachel Saltz) ...The Pearl Theater Company takes a straightforward, just-the-facts-ma'am approach (no singing, no masks, no outdoor stage). A new translation, by Peter Constantine, uses clear, everyday language while retaining a sense of the Greek poetry...That puts the burden on the hardworking cast of just eight actors, who play all roles and the chorus (a minimal presence here). This production, admirable in many ways, doesn't have enough revelations or dramatic peaks, and too often you feel its length more than you feel pity and terror.

Time Out NY C
(Garrett Eisler) In this Herculean endeavor, the troupe's modesty is both an asset and a—dare one say, tragic?—flaw. Its naive, homespun style thankfully avoids sentimental excesses, mitigating the cumulative pathos of three Greek tragedies performed back to back. But in the face of such stark suffering, the cast's rigid, dignified emoting and stoic responses to outrageous horrors seem inadequate...Sorely missing is a strong directorial vision to connect these three stand-alone works, and Peter Constantine's new blanker-than-blank-verse translation only adds to the onstage inertia.

Variety D+
(Mark Blankenship) It should be catnip for theater buffs to experience so much Sophocles at once, savoring the overlapping themes and actions in his work, but no amount of academic interest can overcome the lifelessness of this production. Blood is drained by Peter Constantine's translation. His syntax is so tortured, and his word choice so needlessly formal that the simplest statements become confusing...And Pearl a.d. Shepard Sobel's direction rarely clarifies the story.

Back Stage B 10; TheaterMania B- 9; NY Times C+ 8; Time Out NY C 7; Variety D+ 5; TOTAL: 39 / 5 = 7.8 (C+)

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