April 15, 2002
Intiman's 'Titus' is compelling drama
by Deborah Stone
Arts and Entertainment
The Intiman Theatre launches its 30th anniversary season with William Shakespeare's first tragedy, "Titus Andronicus," directed by Intiman Artistic Director, Bartlett Sher.
One of the Bard's earlier works, "Titus" is a gripping tale of revenge, full of macabre humor and intense drama. Set in the aftermath of a war between the Romans and the Goths around 4th Century A.D., the story focuses on an honorable Roman warrior, Titus Andronicus, who returns home from battle in triumph, only to find his country in political upheaval.
Titus's pride and resulting foolish actions, amid an atmosphere of corruption, set into motion a cycle of revenge that escalates in violence and spirals out of control. He sees his life gradually collapse, as those around him exert hateful and extreme attacks on his family, all in the name of revenge. Issues of loyalty, race, privilege and political intrigue all figure into this family tragedy.
Despite the fact that the play was penned hundreds of years ago, these issues clearly relate to many current world events, making it contemporary and significant.
Director Sher extracts the essence of this play through use of a spare and hauntingly cold set (designed by Deborah Jensen) and through the skilled performances of a talented cast, which include such standouts as Steve Tauge, in the role of Titus, Kathleen Pirki Tauge, as Tamora, Queen of the Goths, Laurence Ballard as Titus's brother, Marcus Andronicus, Mark Chamberlin in the role of Saturninus, Emperor of Rome, Kristin Flanders as Lavinia, Titus's daughter and Allen Gilmore in the role of Aaron the Moor.
Tauge is very effective in bringing out the complexities of Titus while exploring such powerful emotions as grief, despair, rage and betrayal. Gilmore is a powerful actor who conveys the evil and cunning of Aaron the Moor, while maintaining a regal, commanding presence.
Pirki Tauge (Steve Tague's wife) is the perfect arch villainess, devious and manipulative to the extreme. Ballard, one of Seattle's most beloved actors, shows audiences a gracious Marcus, full of compassion and wisdom. His scene with Flanders (as Lavinia) is one of the most heart-wrenching and poignant of the play. Flanders is especially moving in her transformation from a sweet, lovely wife to a ravaged, tormented soul. "Titus Andronicus" is raw and disturbing for its themes, its vivid characters and intense scenes of violence.
It is not a show for the fainthearted or for those in search of light entertainment. However, for those who do prevail, it provides an evening of compelling and memorable drama.
The show runs through April 27. For ticket information, call (206) 269-1900.