A curse lies upon the land of Thebes and its ill-fated rulers that reiterates generation upon generation. Casey Stangl directs the world premiere of The Curse of Oedipus, written by Kenneth Cavander and developed by The Antaeus Company. Opening weekend for the fully double-cast production runs June 19 -22 at the Antaeus Theater in NoHo, with previews beginning June 12.
In The Curse of Oedipus, the legends of three generations have been distilled into a single evening of drama to impart the story of a land and people caught in a web of pride and self-destruction — a battleground against which Apollo and Dionysus contend for power over the mortal realm. Drawing on the numerous, often contradictory legends surrounding the figure of Oedipus, this monumental work combines newly translated dialogue from Sophocles and Euripides and other ancient Greek poets with new, original material gleaned from lost plays that exist only in synopsis form, lyric poetry and retold mythology.
“The production is epic, sweeping —and still evolving,” says Stangl. “It’s primal, emotional and fluid, punctuated by live percussion and drumming. The action is set in ancient Greece, but the language and costumes have a contemporary feel. The aesthetic is timeless.”
The journey began in 2011, when Stangl directed a ClassicsFest workshop of Cavander’s The Legend of Oedipus, a two-part re-telling that had premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1988. The project was so massive, that Stangl approached the playwright to suggest condensing the Oedipus story into one evening. That led to the development of an entirely new endeavor which Cavander, Stangl and the Antaeus actors have been developing for nearly three years, including a workshop production at the Getty Villa in 2013 under the title Oedipus the Man.
In the Antaeus tradition best known as “partner casting,” two actors share every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process to enrich the creative experience for both cast and audience. Sharing the title role in The Curse of Oedipus are Ramon de Ocampo and Terrell Tilford, with Rhonda Aldrich and Eve Gordon as Jocasta; Josh Clark and Tony Amendola as Creon; Barry Creyton and Mark Bramhall as Apollo; John Apicella and Stoney Westmoreland as Dionysus; Fran Bennett and Bernard Addison as Teiresia; Kwana Martinez and Joanna Strapp as Antigone; Lindsay LaVanchy and Lily Nicksay as Ismene; Dylan John Seaton and Adam J. Smith as Haimon; Brian Tichnell and J.B. Waterman as Polyneices; Patrick Wenk-Wolff and Douglas Dickerman as Eteocles; Jonathon Lamer and Lee Jones as Theseus; and Bill Mendieta and Chad Borden as the Manservant. Making up the Chorus are Philip Proctor and Ned Schmidtke; John Achorn and Drew Doyle; Cameron J. Oro and Rafael Goldstein; Chris Clowers and Harry Fowler; Elizabeth Swain and Reba Waters Thomas; Kitty Swink and Susan Boyd Joyce; Desiree Mee Jung and Belen Greene; and Keri Safran, Anna Quirino-Mirand and Sylvie Mae Baldwin. Geno Monteiro and Adam Meyer provide live percussion.
Scenic and lighting design for The Curse of Oedipus are by François-Pierre Couture; costume design is by E.B. Brooks; sound design is by Jeff Gardner; and the production stage manager is Lara E. Nall.
The Antaeus has a perfect no dude history with me. It is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Los Angeles. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members — many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences — regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film, television and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards. Audiences, who rarely see an understudy due to Antaeus’ trademark “partner casting,” frequently return to see the same play in the hands of an equally excellent but very different set of actors.
Kenneth Cavander is a dramatist and translator whose plays and adaptations have been performed both in the United States and in England. They include The Greeks, a three-evening version of plays on the Trojan War for London's Royal Shakespeare Company; Hawthorne Country, for the Williamstown Theatre Festival; and (with Richard Peaslee) Boccaccio (Arena Stage and Broadway) and Legends of Arthur (Williamstown and St. Clements, New York). His television plays include the three-part series The File on Jill Hatch (PBS, Great Perfomances); Hiroshima Maiden (PBS Wonderworks); and Innocent Victims (CBS). Cavander has written more than 20 plays for BBC Young Audiences and numerous documentary programs for PBS.
Casey Stangl directed last season’s The Liar at Antaeus, and, before that, the Ovation and LA Weekly award-winning Peace In Our Time. Other recent projects include Venus In Fur for American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco; Citizen Twain, starring Val Kilmer at the Kirk Douglas Theater; Lombardi, a co-production with Cleveland Playhouse and Arizona Theater Company; Mrs. Packard for USC School of Dramatic Art; The Car Plays for Moving Arts at La Jolla Playhouse and the Segerstrom Off Center Festival; and many projects for South Coast Repertory including the award-winning production of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). Nationally Casey’s work has been seen at Humana Festival/Actors Theatre of Louisville, Guthrie Theater, Denver Center, Woolly Mammoth, Portland Stage, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and many others. Casey was the artistic director of Eye of the Storm Theatre in Minneapolis for which she was named Minnesota Artist of the Year. As a Fellow at AFI’s prestigious Directing Workshop for Women Casey directed the short film C U @ ED’S, which screened at film festivals across the country and won numerous awards.
Performances of The Curse of Oedipus take place June 19 through Aug. 10 on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no matinee performance on Saturday, June 21). There will be six previews, June 12-June 18, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday, all at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Talk back Thursdays begin on June 26: stay after the performance and discuss the play with the cast. Tickets to the Opening Weekend performances on June 19, June 20, June 21 and June 22 are $34, after which all tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays; previews are $15. The Antaeus Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Parking is available for $7 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.