By Luis Alfaro
Directed by Chay Yew
At Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago
L A Latino gangs proves to be a provocative setting for retelling of Oedipus myth
In the finest production of Victory Gardens Theater in Chay Yew’s time, Oedipus El Rey uses the motif of Latinos in prison and their gangland turf activities in LA. That is a curious yet valid creative decision by writer Luis Alfaro. In the Playbill, director Chay Yew sees Oedipus El Rey as “A Call to Action” to stop all the gang violence here in Chicago as well as in LA and many American cities. I wondering how this production can do that? After all, it is a tragedy with violent scenes that depict one gang member punching and kicking another with nay a gun shoot to be heard. To accurately depict gang violence, the play is much too timid so I’m curious where the call to action really is? I see it more as a cautionary tale warning gang bangers to be aware of their possible fate in a world where violence is rampant.
The setting, first in a prison, then in gangland LA is vividly depicted (fine set by Kevin Depinet with lighting by Jesse Klug). The Oedipus myth that finds the son killing his father and marrying his mother (all while being unaware of what he has done) is wonderfully staged and well acted. Adam Poss is brilliant as the tragic Oedipus as he is quite convincing as the gang banger bent on lusting for Jocasta (the excellent Charin Alverez). We see Oedipus’ sexual inexperience that draws him to the older yet sensual Jocasta played out in a most tasteful yet erotic nude scene. Love and sexual desire fuel the myth.
Fate is hinted by the blind surrogate father played by Eddie Torres that we see as the elders seal Oedipus’ tragic fate. Madrid St. Angelo is commanding as the king and as a member of the Greek chorus. This 90 minute tragedy is quite Latino depicting the underbelly of LA street gangs. The struggle for power and recognition as well as the fate of such pursuits comes to dramatic climax in this past-faced and visceral production. Risking portraying Latinos as gang bangers, still this production tries to expose the underrepresented community of gangs that under the radar rule and control over a million members nationwide. Highlighting gangs is a valid first step in searching for a method to contain their violent actions. How better that the Oedipus tragedy to expose the problem?
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: July 11, 2012
For more info checkout the Oedipus El Rey page at theatreinchicago.com
At Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org, Tuesdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesday matinees at 2 pm, Saturday matinees at 4 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through July 29, 2012