I believe it was Albert Einstein who explained time relativity in this way, “If a man spends two hours with a beautiful woman it seems like two minutes, but if the same man sits on a hot stove for two minutes it seems like two hours.” It is unfortunate to report that the near 160+ capacity audience who witnessed “Titus – A Grand and Gory Rock Musical” at Cleveland Public Theatre had to endure the latter, except that it was over three hours of sitting on the hot stove. What was promised as a just over two hour Shakespearian tragedy turned into a marathon. That was the tragedy.
I am no Shakespearean scholar but over the course of the past couple of years I have attended a number of his works. In the course of my brief education I have noticed one thing. Well done Shakespearean plays are performed at breakneck speed. The actors smoothly race through their lines and the overall effect is one of rapid poetry. Such was not the case last night. The timing of the dialog was set to a metronome set at much too slow a click. Add to this various instances of muffed lines and it did not make for a comfortable evening. Another problem was the multiple roles played by the same characters. At one point Demetrius kills Bassanius. The problem is they are the same actor…awkward.
Other shortcomings include the scenes involving body props. It was so campy as to bring wide spread laughter from the crowd. Fake limbs, hands and penises (one of which kept bouncing out of the bucket when thrown in) played more for comic relief rather than inducing fright.
Here is the condensed version of the show. The roman emperor dies. His two sons, Saturninus and Bassianus, fight. Titus returns from war, finds some sons dead kills Alarbus (son of Tamora his captive) as a sacrifice. Titus refuses emperorship and gives to Saturinus who announces his marriage to Titus’ daughter Lavinia who is betrothed to Bassianus. Titus kills his son Mutius who is defending Bassianus. Saturinus decides to marry Tamora. During a hunt, Aaron (Moorish slave and lover of Tamora) convinces Tamora’s sons Demetrius and Chiron to kill Bassianus rape Lavinia after which they cut out her tongue and her. Aaron then forges a letter framing Titus’ sons, Martius and Quintus. Saturninus has the pair arrested.
Marcus discovers Lavinia (sans hands and tongue) takes her to Titus who is grieving the arrest of sons. Aaron appears and falsely tells them that Saturninus will spare the sons if Titus, Marcus or Lucius cut off one of their hands. After an argument, Titus has Aaron cut off his hand which he takes to Satuninus. Titus returns with the severed heads of Martius and Quintus plus the hand of Titus. Lucius flees Rome.
Lavinia writes the names of attackers in blood. Tamora gives birth to mixed-race boy (Aaron’s) who kills the nurse and flees with child. Lucius returns with an army, captures Aaron who confesses. Meanwhile in Rome, Titus fauns insanity by shooting message laden arrows into the palace. Tamara arranges to bring everyone together for a feast. Tamora, Chrion and Demetrius visit Titus disguised as “Revenge, Murder and Rape” convinces Titus to stop Lucius attack on Rome. As Tamora leaves he convinces her to leave her sons in his care. He disembowels them and drains their blood cooking them into pies for the feast. At the fest Titus kills Lavinia, reveals what they are eating then kills Tamora. Saturinus kills Titus who is killed by Lucius who becomes emperor and orders Aaron buried alive.
Final count: fourteen deaths, one rape, five appendages cut off plus one tongue and two heads, one live burial, insanity, infidelity and cannibalism all set in Middle English and a Rock and Roll beat.
On the plus side, the music rocked (although it did not really fit in with the Shakespearian Middle English). One special high note was Jon Conley who played multiple roles of Alastor (while playing guitar and singing), Alarbus and First Goth…quite impressive. Other singing standouts included Justine Kunstler Zapin as Lavinia, Amiee Collier as Marcus, Alison Garrigan as Tamora and Lawrence Charles as Aaron all with superb singing voices. The rest of the cast was adequate but just needed to speed up the speaking tempo by A LOT. The set design by Todd S. Krispinsky is very notable with its two story high catwalk, industrial exposed beams and general late Roman rusty run down appearance. The lighting by Ben Gantose was also notable giving atmosphere where needed although the strobe light sequence could have been a bit shorter. Lastly, following the show there was a very nice buffet set up along with the regular “free beer and wine Fridays”.
For whatever reason, it was explained last night that the cast had not done a preview performance so in fact the opening was actually the preview. This is something that I had not ever encountered in local professional theater and hope not to witness again. Opening night crowds deserve better.
Prude Alert: Well Folks…this one hits the trifecta of language, violence and sexual reference. You might want to stay at home and catch up on your knitting.
Shooting From the Lip (My Last Words): Although they give it a good try, this rock version of Shakespeare’s ends up too long, too loud and too hard to enjoy. This is a work in serious need of a rewrite as well as ramping up the speed of the dialog delivery. The gory parts are funny and the funny parts are not. In short, this is a work that cannot decide what it wants to be when it grows up…a Shakespearean tragedy, a comedy or a rock show.
Cast and Crew of TITUS: A Grand and Gory Rock Musical
“Titus: A Grand and Gory Rock Musical” was conceived and directed by Craig J. George, with music by Dennis Yurich and Alison Garrigan. Musical Direction by Brad Wyner. “Titus” features an all-Cleveland cast, starring Dana Hart* (as Titus), Alison Garrigan (Tamora, Queen of the Goths) and Lawrence Charles (Aaron), with Amiee Collier, Jon Conley, Ryan Edlinger, Val Kozlenko, Justine Kunstler, Pat Miller, Matt O’Shea, Christopher Sanders and Justin Williams.
*Appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association.
The TITUS band is Brad Wyner (Conductor, Keyboards), John Fitzpatrick Pringpuangkeo (Guitar), Tim Pringpuangkeo (Upright & Electric Bass) and Richard Kline (Drums).
Complete creative team includes Craig J. George (Creator/Director), Dennis Yurich & Alison Garrigan (Music), Brad Wyner (Music Direction), Martìn Cèspedes (Choreographer), Jenniver Sparano (Costume Designer), Carlton Guc (Sound Designer), Dusten Welch (Fight Choreographer), Todd S. Krispinsky (Set Designer), P.J. Toomey (Special Effects Designer) and Ben Gantose (Lighting Designer).
Production team includes Lauren Calevich (Stage Manager), Cyrus Taylor (Sound Operator) and Aaron Rutz (Assistant Stage Manager).
TITUS: A Grand and Gory Rock Musical runs through Saturday, March 22, 7:30pm in CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District.
Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday at 7:30pm, with a special matinee performance on Sunday, March 16th at 3:00pm.
Tickets are $12 – $28.
Take advantage of $12 tickets on Monday and Thursday shows. Student and Senior discounts ($3 off) are available for Friday and Saturday performances.
Every Friday is FREE BEER FRIDAY at CPT. Audience members are invited to mingle with the artists after the show and enjoy a drink or two on CPT.
Group discounts are available. Call James Kosmatka, CPT Director of Patron Services at (216) 631-2727 x203 for more information.
Tickets are available for purchase online at www.cptonline.org or by phone at (216) 631-2727 x 501.