Walking into the Southern Theater to see a retelling of a story first performed on stage over two millennia ago is a wonderful experience. The contrast of the exposed modern lighting and minimalist set pieces to the beautiful, century-old proscenium arch is a fantastic metaphor for the show itself, blending old and new.
These are the Men is a new play from Savage Umbrella that tells the story of the Greek classic Oedipus Rex from the point of view of the tragic heroine, wife, mother, and wife/mother Jocasta as she tries to cope with a complex intertwining of fate, prophesy, love, and the wrath of the Gods. The play opens upon the conception of Jocasta’s first son Oedipus. Jocasta’s relationships with her first husband Laius, second husband Oedipus, and brother Creon are not recounted in a straight line but experienced in fragments; the play jumps between disconnected points along the timeline of her relationships with these three men. As this temporally disjointed narrative evolves, we are introduced to elements of fate by Pythia (the oracle of Delphi), and free will (by the blind prophet Tiresias). These are the Men does a great job of shining new light on an old story and bringing a lot of emotional depth to an originally supporting character.
It must be said that Laura Leffler-McCabe does an amazing job portraying Jocasta, as she quickly jumps from one part of life to another. Leffler-McCabe draws the audience into Jocasta’s deep confusion through amazing emotional range. Michael Ooms’ performance as Jocasta’s brother Creon is also notable for its depth of character development. Ooms does an amazing job of slowly revealing the manipulative nature of this character, after drawing the audience in as the kindly elder brother and uncle.
From a technical perspective this play is wonderfully executed. There are a lot of scene changes which happen with amazing fluidity. All too
frequently, plays leave the audience in the dark while costumes are changed and props are moved, but that is not the case here. The combination of smart stage design (kudos to scenic designer Brian Proball and assistant Travis Collins, and properties designers Heidi Jedlicka Halvarson and Laura Leffler-McCabe) and versatile costumes (by Heidi Jedlicka Halvarson, Mason Mahoney, and Laura Leffler-McCabe, who apparently is a jill-of-all-theatre-trades!) allowed for very fast scene changes that contributed to the fluid sense of time, keeping the play moving and the audience engaged.
I highly recommend this new play. It is poignant, with a surprising number of lighthearted moments for such a tragic tale. Blake E Bolan and Laura Leffler-McCabe‘s script brings new depth to an old story, reinvigorating it for a new generation. This is a great addition to the Southern Theater’s new ARTshare program. ARTshare is a partnership between local theatre companies and the Southern Theater which sells year-long memberships for $18 per month, allowing members to attend an unlimited number of performances by these resident theatere companies.
These are the Men, by Blake E Bolan and Laura Leffler-McCabe, performed by Savage Umbrella, runs March 14-April 18, 2015 as part of ARTshare at the Southern Theater, 1420 S Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets are $24, or are covered under the $18/month ARTshare program, at https://southern.ticketworks.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=7 or http://www.savageumbrella.org/tatm-2015.html