Oedipus the Tyrant

Oedipus the Tyrant

In Jamey Hecht's poetical, lucid translation of Sophocles classic, director Thomas Bigley opts for a staid togas-and-sandals approach, with Jessica Pasternak's silky earth-tone costumes. A female chorus recites in unison Sophocles' meditations on the action, sometimes performing to Taylor Fisher's choreography of arms flung from torsos simultaneously, or the percussive effect of punctuating a line with a group stamp of the foot or slap of the palm. Combine that with Nicholas Neidorf's subtly brooding sound design and original compositions, plus a performance style that gets to the translation's formality with an emotional spontaneity and truthfulness, and what transpires is absorbing. This is remarkable, given the dangers lurking in the artifice — the symmetry of Bigley's staging and Fisher's art design, the inherent possibilities of overacting and self-parody. These dangers almost never become manifest to choke this earnest endeavor. In the title role, the youthful Charles Pasternak makes for a sometimes relaxed, sometimes tempestuous monarch, with a charm that makes it apparent how he could have wandered into Thebes after a road-rage incident and stolen the heart of Queen Jocasta (the powerful Kate O'Toole). Dylan Vigus has a thunderous presence as the Priest who opens the play, and Hecht cuts plausible distinctions between his jaded Teiresias and his callow Messenger. The strongest aspect, which should please translator Hecht no end, is the commanding articulation of the poetical prose. The Porters of Hellgate at the Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (818) 325-2055, brownpapertickets.com/event/149704.
Sun., Feb. 20, 7 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 20. Continues through March 20, 2011