On Halloween, the UC Irvine Drama Department showed how it celebrates the holiday. There was no candy or “monster mash” to be found, but blood was definitely present in the department’s Oct. 31 production of “Titus Andronicus.”
The all-female cast of “Titus Andronicus paraded in a different type of minimalist costuming and showed off its impressive talent.
“‘Titus Andronicus'” is the first tragedy credited to Shakespeare,” explains dramaturge Rebecca Johannsen. Critics have recently revisited the text and discovered the foundation of what would become Shakespeare’s later works.
In this production of “Titus,” director Phil Thompson and his staff took the flawed script, and according to Johannsen, “[broke] down the play to its essential parts, and [tried] to organize the scenes in a more logical fashion to get to the heart of the play.”
There is much to like about Thompson’s staging of the play, and the show’s greatest strength lies in its all-female ensemble. The most convincing performance was that of Helen Sage Howard as Lucius, commanding attention with a performance as dominant as her character.
In contrast, Camelia Poespowidjojo provided a tender, heart-wrenching portrayal as Lavinia, sometimes wordlessly conveying her character’s pain with a sensitivity that nearly brought the audience to tears.
The most powerful scene featured Titus Andronicus (Stephanie Philo), Marcus Andronicus (Elizabeth Mugavero) and Lucius, in which the characters argue over whose hand will be chopped off and sacrificed. This brutal scene somehow manages to show a strangely tender moment of familial loyalty.
The small intricacies of the characters’ attire were beautiful and often indicated more than what caught the eye. For instance, though all characters were wearing similar cloth, subtle differences distinguished each character. For example, Marcus Adronicus’ cloth draping over one shoulder signifies the character as a tribune and differs from the war-like clothing of Titus and Lucius.
The lighting and sound created an atmosphere without needing an extravagant set. The lighting alone adequately created an image for the audience members. When Saturninus (Nicole Erb) spoke to people at the bottom of a pit, we were able to see a pit without a pit being physically there.
The blood and gore of “Titus Andronicus” were fitting for a Halloween opening night. Tickets for the closing weekend are on sale now — it promises to make for an eventful night out.
“Titus Andronicus” will continue to run from Nov. 5-8 with performances beginning at 8 p.m. at the Claire Trevor Theater.