Presenting a production of Sophocles’ Oedipus might sound like good training for the FSU/Asolo Conservatory’s second-year MFA students, and it is. But it’s also a reminder for audiences of just how relevant this seminal myth can be, 2,500 years later.
One might think that such an ancient work, set in Thebes and featuring a priest(ess), much talk of oracles, a plague and, of course, a Greek chorus would have little to say to us in 2017. Not so. The tragedy of Oedipus, and the suffering of those around him as well, can still tell us something about power, leadership, community and humanity today.
The production, directed by Greg Leaming, mixes elements of the classic and contemporary, with Jeffrey Weber’s set design placing us squarely in a traditional Greek public space of pillars and marble before the home of Oedipus (Andrew Hardaway) and his wife Jocasta (Olivia Osol), but the cast’s costumes (by Sofia Gonzalez) featuring more current wear, like a nice suit and tie for Oedipus the king, an evening gown for Jocasta, and shabby jeans for the people of Thebes. Those people have come to implore Oedipus for help; they’re facing starvation and disease, and Kreon (Erik Meixelsperger), Jocasta’s brother, has word from Delphi that it’s all because of one man—the killer of the previous king Laius. If his death can be avenged by finding and punishing his murderer, then all might be well.
Oedipus grandly declaims that he will make that happen—not realizing, of course, that he is calling down death and destruction on his own head. If you’re not familiar with Oedipus’ back story (his real parentage, his unknowing sin of killing his father and marrying his mother, etc.), look it up.
The acting and direction here are relatively straightforward, and the cast handles Sophocles’ language with a strong measure of understanding and skill. Hardaway is a compelling presence as the once confident, later tortured Oedipus; Meixelsperger is a cooler head as Kreon; and Osol is convincing in the scene where she first realizes the truth of her marriage. Lawrence James, as the blind prophet Teiresias, looks and speaks like a Rastafarian, which does nothing to lessen the power of his anger as he and Oedipus spar over what should or should not be revealed.
It all serves to make us once again question fate, and what role our own actions play in it.
At just an hour and 20 minutes with no intermission, Oedipus continues through Nov. 19 in the Cook Theatre. For tickets, call 351-8000 or go to asolorep.org.