Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Scene Ends And The Sword Is Gone

The Beauty of the Rough Edges in Carte Blanche’s TITUS ANDRONICUS

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Theatre lives in the flaws bring out the visceral reality of human drama. You want perfection? Go see some big, artificial Hollywood movie in 3D Imax. You want the flaws that make us human? You go to some small, little studio theatre space and immerse yourself in the rough edges of a show with a modest budget.

The Carte Blanche Studios’ production of Titus Andronicus lives in the kinds of flaws that make theatre what it is. It’s notoriously difficult to stage a show that includes a rape, and multiple dismemberments. Two heads, three hands and a tongue, among others. And in the intimate studio environment, it’s painfully obvious that the full grizzly of the reality of the play is not adequately represented in the show. There are however, interesting moments here.

A hero is killed and there is the smell of fragrant shampoo. An odious meal at the end of the play isn’t delivered quite as it should be . . . that special magic in the production manages to turn a pair of villains into . . . what I would find out later is a chicken pot pie with strawberry sauce. The costuming is brilliant in places and awful in others, but so is the script—a huge success in Shakespeare’s time but not exactly universally-respected since.

But just like in the script there are moments of sheer brilliance. Andrew Parchman makes what I think is a big debut performance in Milwaukee theatre. Never saw the guy before—here he’s playing the archvillain—a Moor named Aaron. Really amazing performance. The guy looks totally bada$$ in the role, too. That’s him from his facebook profile above.

There was a really interesting moment opening night—prior to the offstage rape, a sword got inadvertently left behind onstage. (Really good hardware for the show, by the way. Provided by actor Christopher Elst and Adam Meitz—the swords look remarkably solidthey have subtle inlay and everything.) The sword looks awkward--it's just hanging out there in the middle of the stage and Aaron and a few others enter. Without looking at all overt about it, Parchman settles-down in front of the sword. And I was watching him the whole time, knowing what he might be doing, but I couldn’t detect any movement from where I was sitting. The scene ends and the sword is gone. It just vanished. He managed to slip offstage after the scene with only a brief telltale flash of scabbard as he exited the stage. You’d only notice it happen if you knew what to look for. That sort of recovery happens a lot in live theatre. It’s really cool to watch when it happens. As for Parchman, I’m really hoping he shows-up in more stuff. It’s quite a performance he puts in here.

The Carte Blanche Studios’ production of Titus Andronicus runs through June 19th at the Carte Blanche Studio Theatre on 1024 S. 5th Street Milwaukee. For reservations, call 262-716-4689. A comprehensive review of the show runs in the next Shepherd-Express.

 

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