Oedipus is a thinker who dares to try to outwit fate. The oracle predicted that he would kill his father and marry his mother and so he left his parents and won the neighboring city of Thebes by outwitting the riddling sphinx.
Playing Oedipus the king, Matt Dibiasio’s opening monologue displays his incredible acting range as he goes from intensely potent anger to a profound pessimism, despair, disgust and fear. Ted Hughes’ long carnal poem reminded me of Ginsberg’s Howl in its epic breadth, particularity and intensity.
Playing Queen Jocasta, Courtney Walsh’s beautifully carnal performance reminded me of Lady Macbeth. In her monologue, she takes the stage from the failing king and lashes Oedipus back into the regal monument of power that he must be and he finally vows his utterly convincing deep dark promise to rid the city of its evil-doer. Once more Dibiasio seizes the stage.
Ted Hughes’ adaptation of Seneca’s rewriting of Sophocles’ compilation of bronze-age Greek legends represents a deep-dive into our cultural memory. We could be seeing deep into our pre-history, into the very origins of the human psyche.
This is the finest piece of classical drama I have ever seen. The language is masterfully poetic and all the more so because it is acted so seriously. Hughes’ excellent opening monologues combine character with language. Later in the play, he conjures up the ghost of the murdered King Laius as channeled by Thomas Freeland’s fine performance of Creon.
The chorus echoed and amplified the clashing characters with dance accompanied by some pretty wild music. When Tiresius appears, they retreat from the blind seer into a close and watchful huddle. The chorus members get their individual moment on stage.
And central to the play is the primal murder of the father, resulting in the deconstruction of the modern individual, the indivisible atom of selfism, into its irreconcilable paradox of courage coupled with shame. Oedipus finally figures out that he is the enemy and we see yet another facet of Matt Dibiasio’s astonishing acting ability.
Stanford Summer Theater’s Oedipus is a wonderful experience and it plays on campus at the Nitery until August 14th, 2011.