Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: The Complexity of Oedipus

The canon of Greek comedies and dramas have played a historic role through time. Some have even impacted other disciplines including psychology. Freud coined the term "Oedipus Complex" that describes the love of a son for his mother. But how did Oedipus fall for mother dearest? Ask Matt Minnicino. In Matt Minnicino's Wrecks, presented by Underling Productions, the origin of the Oedipus trilogy is explored through a modern lens.
Written by Minnicino, Wrecks is a unique spin on the Oedipus story that blends modern tongue with heightened ideas. An oracle on her first day gets the epic task of prophesizing a young Oedipus. When she learns what the prophecy states, she tries to guide Oedipus to a different ending. Wrecks is a humorous and modern take on the action prior to the prequel. But the way it is presented, complete knowledge of the source material is immensely essential. Minnicino's text shows great promise. He has done a great job excavating the origin. But the tempo of information forces beats to fall to the wayside. The precision of movement proves the tightness of the text but there were moments that desired to be lived in further. Time and location were liminal. And in a sense, it worked. Being a prequel to the Odeipus cycle, we know where it should occur but Minnicino and director Meghan Blakeman explored ambiguity through text and the mix of costumes from Jason Frey.
Simplicity was Blakeman’s vision. With that was comprised merely of a rehearsal cube and two fabric drops, Blakeman relied on the text to drive the story. The lighting design from Sara Watson seldom utilized grand stage washes, opting for more striking symmetrical  looks, especially in the Oracle scenes.
Despite being an ensemble show, the focus stayed primarily on Oedipus and The Novice. Taking on Oedipus was the well-rounded Travis Johnson. Johnson put a geeky spin on the character. Taking on the spritely novice, Phoebe Gonzalez embraced the whimsy of Minnicino’s text. There was something rewarding in her interpretation. Avoiding a weighty performance was a winning choice by Gonzalez. The other strong showing came from Billy Fenderson as Laius. The dominance in his character was mesmerizing. Fenderson’s engagement of the text allowed him to control.
Wrecks is a work in progress. There is promise to Minnicino’s story. With a little more work, this could be a piece that sees another life.