Saturday June 24th 2017

“Oedipus el Rey”

Greek Tragedy! Do theater audiences really want to view these stories? Perhaps they do, but not as they were written, but rather in a modern, more hip-hop version that allows them to relate to the story itself and the message contained within. Chicago audiences are in for a real treat as Victory Gardens Theater presents the Chicago premiere of Luis Alfaro’s stunningly adaptation of “Oedipus Rex”, entitles “Oedipus el Rey”. This is called a “reboot” of the “daddy of all tragedies”, and as was done with “Rome and Juliet” in “West Side Story”, this story is updated to a more modern time and is about a Chicano “family”- the King is not a true king, but a king lord gangster who controls his “turf” ( his kingdom). At the start of the production, which is 95 minutes of  pure theatrical magic, we are in a prison and the prisoners greet us with their message of telling a story about  fate and violence and how the people involved cope with their environment. As the story evolves, Oedipus ( powerfully played by Adam Poss with all the fire and emotion of a man who doesn’t know his real story) is about to be released from prison.

We go back in time to find that his father, Laius, the drug lord/King of the Barrio where he lived, as his wife was with child, is told by the Prophets that a curse has been placed on him and that he will have a son, who one day will kill him. When his wife gives birth to a son, Laius ( richly played by Madrid St.Angelo) fearing the prophecy to be true, cuts his new born son’s feet and hands him off to his number one man Tiresius ( deftly handled by Chicago favorite Eddie Torres) to finish off. Instead, the God fearing Tiresius leaves the are and raises Oedipus as his own. When his son ends up in prison, he commits his own crimes in order to be with him and protect him from the fates. He has been blinded by the fates as punishment for taking the boy and keeping him alive.

As Oedipus makes his way to California to become his own man and perhaps a King himself, he has a run-in with Laius which results in his killing him over something very trivial. He doens’t know who this man is or his power but finds that Laius’ brother-in-law( a solid performance by Arturo Soria), someone he knew in prison ,can help him get a start towards reaching his goal. at the house, he meets Jocasta ( the lovely and very sensuous Charin Alvarez) and we are treated to one of the most beautiful love scenes to be placed on a stage- yes there is some nudity in this scene but director Chay Yew, using a marvelous turntable ( the set by Kevin Depinet is very functional to keeping the focus on the action) and very powerful lighting ( Jesse Klug), we are put in a position of watching two lonely people in search of warmth and affection find each other, not knowing what their actual relationship is.

In fact Yew takes Alfaro’s modern version of this classic to new heights as each of the players brings their characters to life. The two other actors in this production Steve Casillas and Jesse David Perez are as important to the story as the main characters- 7 quality actors bring our focus on to the reality of what this story is all about; fate. violence, choices ( Eleanor Roosevelt once said that  our destiny is often based on the choices we make) and  that many people are trapped in a lifestyle because they choose not to, or cannot find the escape route that would be there if they made the right choices. There are some stunning fight sequences, almost dance like (Ryan Bourque) and the incidental music and sound by Mikhail Fiskel is perfection.

This is a story that makes much more sense to a larger audience because it is filled with incidents that we are more aware of. Each week-end we hear about the drug busts, the gang violence, the killings and the problems of the street. Alfaro chose to “reboot” this story into a modern day one that deals with the people of a particular culture, but this could easily have been any ethnicity that has a similar background. The prison culture, as shown in this story doesn’t really change the person or his or her life choices. In fact, the younger ones learn from the older prisoners and in many cases are placed in new gangs, ones that have higher goals. It is Alfaro’s contention that viewing this production may just be the tool that will open the eyes of many Americans who are either blind to what happens in the “hoods” or just chooses to ignore and cross the street. Again- the choics we make may have an effect on our next generations. This is one that I would ask you to put on your MUST SEE list.

“Oedipus el Rey” will continue at Victory Gardens Theater, located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue ( the historical Biograph Theater) through July 29th with performances as follows:

Tuesday thru Saturday at 7:30 p.m. as well as Saturday afternoons at 4 p.m.  and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m.

There will be a Wednesday matinee at 2 p.m. on July 18th.

Tickets range from $20-$50 and can be purchased at the box office, by phoone at 773-871-3000 or by e-mail at tickets@victorygardens.org  or you can visit www.victorygardens.org, where you can learn about student and senior discounts, Access  and 20 for $20 as well as “RUSH” discounts.

Access are description and touch tours for low vision or blind patrons.

Valet parking is available as well as discounted parking down the street at The Children’s memorial lot ( the hospital has moved, but the lot is still available) as well as street parking ( metered and a few not) and public transportation is easy.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com- go to review round-up and click at “Oedipus el Rey”

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