Titus Andronicus has enough murder and atrocities to fill a big boat all by itself so it only makes sense to add a bunch of killer fish. Much like Titus Andronicus Jr. from last year’s Fringe, this show takes the bloody and overly-dramatic and turns it in to a bit of a screwball farce. Complete with plastic palm trees, fruity drinks and a wonderful Florida retiree narrator (Jo MacLachlan), the creator/director Fiona Austin turns Sharkspeare’s classic into great fringe fun.
Titus Andronicus (a terrifically rubber-faced Sean Scofield) returns from ten years of war. He has captured Tamora (Adrienne Marquand), Queen of the Goths, her “shark” sons, and villainous Aaron (Vernon Taylor), her secret lover. In accordance with Roman rituals, Titus sacrifices Tamora’s eldest son to his own dead sons, which earns him Tamora’s unending hatred and her promise of revenge.
The new emperor Saturninus (Eduardo Mora) takes a fancy to Tamora and makes her his bride. To get revenge on Titus, she schemes with her lover Aaron to have Titus’s two sons framed for the murder of Bassianus (Andrew Shewchuk), the emperor’s brother. Titus removes his own hand to save his sons but, alas, they are beheaded. Unappeased, Tamora urges her puppet fry Chiron (Cat Dykstra) and Demetrius (Kevin Alai) to “nibble” Titus’s daughter Lavinia (Ashley Marquand), who bite off her hands and tongue so she cannot give their crime away. Titus’s last surviving son Lucius (Veronica Burgess) is banished from Rome (in a ridiculous picnic scene); he subsequently seeks alliance with the enemy Goths in order to attack the city. Eventually, Titus begins to act oddly and everyone assumes that he is nuts and hilarity ensues. There are a lot of hand/fin jokes, plastic kiddy pools and delicious bowls of soup for everyone.
Scofield, as the title character, is the real captain of this admirable cast and Taylor makes for a smarmy scoundrel. The show moves at a break-neck pace and, while very liberal with Shakespeare’s verse, does maintain his raucous spirit. Some of the smaller characters are a bit underdeveloped and get lost in the speed of the show but there are great moments throughout, particulary the lively puppet work from Dykstra and Alai. The rest of the cast, including Fiona Austin, Mike Austin, Camille Escareal-Garcia and Anne French, all do fine work.
If you like Shakespeare and/or sharks, this show might float your boat. I recommend it.