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A Wilderness of Tigers: Victoria Teague on Titus Andronicus by Frog and Peach Theatre Company

New York Theatre Review - October 20, 2014

Titus Andronicus
company Frog and Peach Theatre Company
playwright William Shakespeare
director Lynnea Benson

Charles Baker, Alec Barniskis, Collin Blackard, Phillip Gregory Burke, Eric Doss, Dan Kennett, Vivien Landau, JP Makowski, Jane Morison, Greg Mullavey, Brittany Proia, Amy Frances Quint, Luke Edward Smith, Matthew Velez, & Jonathan Reed Wexler

set/props Andy Estep
lighting Dennis Parichy
costumes Nina Vartanian
combat Marcus Watson
movement Tom Knutson

The West End Theatre
263 W. 86th St.
October 9 - November 2


With Halloween right around the corner, the timing couldn't be more right to see Shakespeare's goriest play, and Frog and Peach Theatre Company have staged a classic production of it on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They have remained very true to Shakespeare's original script, even with its inherent complications. With the current violence raging across the globe, there might not be a better time to revisit the bloody Rome of Titus Andronicus.

General Titus Andronicus (Greg Mullavey) returns triumphant from The Goth Wars toting along prisoners, including Tamora, the Queens of the Goths (Amy Frances Quint), her three sons and Aaron the Moor (Phillip Gregory Burke). Titus wastes no time publicly executing one of the sons as an example. When Saturninus (Eric Doss), the newly pronounced Emperor of Rome, learns that Titus' daughter Lavinia (Brittany Proia) is secretly betrothed to his brother Bassianus (Collin Blackard), he marries Tamora. The scene is set for quite possibly one of the bloodiest revenge tragedies of all time.

The ensemble of Titus Andronicus is active and dedicated, especially during the more physical scenes of the play. In particular, Amy Frances Quint's Tamora is just the right blend of sensual and vile, her desire for revenge piercing and always present. While she is horrible (as are most of the characters Shakespeare has created for this play) I couldn't help but feel sorry for her loss. Phillip Gregory Burke also gives a great performance as the all-around immoral Aaron the Moor. He sails above the emotions of the other characters of the play and demonstrates clearly from the beginning that he simply takes joy in the horror around him.

Lynnea Benson's direction is consistent and clear, even a little too clear at times. Moments of direct audience address and exaggerated foreshadowing feel excessive. The terrible and inhumane things these characters do to each other are shocking, to both audience and actor. While Shakespeare doesn't make it easy with some of the disgusting and even outlandish acts of violence he's written, I found a natural reaction to some of those moments to be lacking. Shakespeare also acts as a prop designer's biggest nightmare with Titus Andronicus, calling for a number of props that are difficult to create. While it is problematic, at moments in this production I was taken out of the story because of the design or handling of the props and costumes.

Titus Andronicus is often considered one of Shakespeare's lesser works. While he has written things that are incredibly difficult to present onstage, it also serves as a reminder of how quickly revenge and violence can get out of hand. Julie Taymor said about Titus that "it seems like a play written for today, it reeks of now." Especially with the current state of our world I couldn't agree more. Frog and Peach Theatre Company remind us of that lesson with this production, and give audiences the special opportunity to see one of Shakespeare's less frequently performed plays.

Victoria Teague is a theatre performance graduate, with a concentration in arts and entertainment marketing, from Baylor University in Texas. She is an actress, director, and arts administrator living in Queens.