Friday, November 7, 2014

Review: Seeing Is Believing

The concept is simple. Greek tragedy noir style. The infamous saga of a king and the prophecies of incest are brought to a smokey club where a black and white world of mystery brings truths to light. In Gia Forakis and Co's high concept O. Rex, Oedipus is a mafia inspired head honcho of a club where he learns of the prophecy that he will one day kill his father and sleep with his mother.
O. Rex takes the Sophocles classic and smashes it in the noir world. While the story needs no set up, the concept and choices made on stage do. Staged in an intimate cabaret style three quarter thrust in the wonderfully transformative Alchemical Theatre Laboratory, O. Rex brings the audience into the action from the get go. The vibe allows for the noir atmosphere to settle in. Everything in this world is back and white. Literally. The tables are black. The chairs are white. The costumes are black and white. And the white makeup is in full force to really hammer the film element. While it didn't read, especially as the sweat melted it off of some actor's faces, the feeling evoked everything director Forakis was going for. The ingenuity of the concept allowed for some great ideas to be executed well. One of the best was turning the Greek chorus into the talent of the club.
photo courtesy of Alex Ward
With such a strong concept to lean on, the acting needed to match the world to a T. With the exception of one, the ensemble seemed to nail the heightened noir style. Sure there was a cornucopia of accents preventing anyone from figuring out where we truly were, for the most part it can be forgiven. And then the titular character appeared and threw hope at the window. Tony Naumovski as O. Rex should be commended for his brave commitment to the character he created. With that being said, Naumovski performed in a world of his own. The voice Naumovski picked was bold. His vocal inflections were extremely specific. At first it was if he was channeling Clint Eastwood circa Dirty Harry or one of his many Westerns and then he seemed to reveal that he just graduated from the Gary Busey School of Acting. Forakis needed to aid Naumovski in toning the intensity down a whole bunch of notches. His Oedipus was so extreme, clarity disappeared and hilarity appeared in all the wrong places. Yes, by the end of the piece Oedipus has gone mad. But Naumovski made him certifiable in his final speech. On the opposite spectrum is Adam Boncz as the Master of Ceremonies. Boncz was the perfect host of the evening bringing a wonderful balance of humor and drama. Boncz was by far the most stable of the speaking actors on stage. One of the highlights in concept and performance as the use of the chorus, and of the chorus, Katrina Foy was a knockout. With a stunning look and a killer voice, Foy was a true headliner. Danielle Delgado gave a divine performance as Jocasta, revealing the truths in such a beautifully subtle manner.
Director Gia Forakis, who also served as co-translator alongside with Mark Buchan, did wonders devising a high concept world and bringing it to life. It was clear Forakis knew the world she was creating. Forakis allowed her company of actor to play an assortment of acting choices that did not always blend properly. With the cabaret style, Buchan and composer Balint Varga wrote a wonderful musical score for the chorus to sing, keeping within the themes of the play. Jeremy Mage composed the underscoring, which was beautifully noir. However with the intensity Naumovski spoke in, any underscoring that may have been playing immediately disappeared as it became inaudible. The lighting by Federico Restrepo evoked the perfect feeling by limiting the amount of color to red at the end.
O. Rex is truly a brilliant concept of a brilliant classic text. But when the titular character is difficult to watch and understand, saving the production is quite hard. This is an Oedipus you have to see to believe.