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Going slapstick with Sophocles

Special to The Times

It’s raining seltzer water on Thebes in “Oedipus the King” at Theatre/Theater. This Sons of Beckett vaudevillian adaptation of Sophocles’ deathless tragedy whips patricide, incest and manifest destiny into an uproarious blend of Tex Avery, Ernie Kovacs and National Lampoon.

Director Jeffrey Wienckowski goes for old-time music hall, instantly evident from Brian Johnson’s set, Tim Watson’s footlights and the barbershop house music. The Greek chorus of “OediPals” (composer-musical director Christopher P. Ellis, Kevin Ellis, Johnson and Marilyn Zaslow) are sublime. These ham-fisted harmonizers launch their insidious prologue with a glee that is blindingly funny.

For the record:
12:00 AM, Aug. 06, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 06, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Theater address -- A review of the Sons of Beckett production of “Oedipus the King” in Thursday’s Calendar Weekend gave an incorrect address for Theatre/Theater in Hollywood. The correct address is 6425 Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor.

So, mostly, is the show that follows, its twisted trajectory and fractured focus maintained by Wienckowski’s costumes, arranger Heidi Kushnatsian’s honky-tonk accompaniment and, certainly, the certifiable cast.

Jay Africa’s Oedipus is an unflagging absurdist patsy, and the Winifred Shaw-flavored Jocasta, played by real-life spouse and choreographer Erin McBride Africa, defies rational analysis. The religious and sheep-tending factions of Richard-Edward de Vere and Eric Carter; Kelli Anne’s cocktail waitress Euridice; and the inbred nightmare pair of Asia Garcia’s Antigone and Anna Kennelly Baardsen’s Ismene are all hysterical. Wienckowski’s blind Teireseas needs direction but fractures nonetheless, and, as the pickled Kreon, Chairman Barnes is a devastating comic find.

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The savage climax can’t be sustained without dropping comedy for Grand Guignol melodrama; how to reach a tragicomic resolution with the sick hilarity of a John Waters is an unsolved riddle.

Still, this goofball romp is surely the brightest deconstructed Grecian formula since Steven Berkoff’s “Greek,” which augurs well for its future.

*

Oedipus the King’

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Where: Theatre/Theater, 4525 Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor, Hollywood

When: Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.

Ends: Aug. 16

Price: $10-$15

Info: (818) 785-9558

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes


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