Oedipus Complex. Image by Brian Warling
Playwright: Adapted by Frank Galati from a play by Sophocles, translated by Stephen Berg and Diskin Clay
At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Phone: 312-443-3800; $20-$68
Runs through: June 3
Once upon a time—around 1900, to be specific—there was a Viennese doctor named Sigmund Freud who was troubled by bizarre dreams incorporating shocking images of verifiably false events centered on his childhood relationships with a passive father and seductive mother. His attempts at explaining these disturbing fantasies led him to the myth of Oedipus Rex—not simply viewed as a play written by Sophocles circa 429 B.C., but as documentation of an impulse universal among western males. When presenting his findings to skeptical colleagues, he supports his arguments by recounting the story at the heart of his thesis: that of the innocent king who learns, too late, that his rise to power is founded on his having murdered his own father and sired children by his own mother.
So who's the hero of this play? Oedipus or Freud? What is most astonishing—and commendable—about the multiple dimensions imposed on the classical tragedy by Frank Galati's framing it in explication of its modern legacy is how equitably they share the stage, both dramatically and physically. To be sure, the opening tableau—modeled on Thomas Eakins' famous painting, The Agnew Clinic—with its observing surgeons serving as a chorus led by Freud himself, somewhat slows our emotional investment in the ancient scandal. No one can resist a whodunit, however, and as the evidence accumulates, our involvement in the outcome does likewise, so that Oedipus' horror at his own culpability—paralleled by Freud's upon discovery of childhood sexual abuse at the foundation of his own malaise—affects us profoundly.
Audiences in 2007 being long conditioned to snigger at the mention of anything associated with the 'sex doctor,' an actor faces Herculean obstacles persuading us to take the 'father of modern psychology' seriously, let alone acknowledge his courage in exploring his darkest secrets and not attempting suicide after exposing them. Nick Sandys, however, paints us a portrait of Freud steeped in vulnerability, his German accent muted as he proffers comfort to the intrepid Theban monarch, endowed with dignity and compassion by Ben Viccellio. The supporting players—whose ranks encompass a veritable who's who of off-Loop talent—deliver performances varying from Roderick Peeples' raisonné Kreon to Jeffrey Baumgartner's fevered Teiresias. But the star of the show is vocal coach Linda Gates, whose instruction shapes the individual voices of the chorus into a single vox populi bearing witness to occurances both brutal and benevolent, but no less truthful now as in ages past.
Miss Saigon Gala
on May 18
Former cast members of five locally-produced productions of Miss Saigon will join forces in 'Broadway Asia!,' a one-night-only gala that will benefit School Street Arts Movement, a local AIDS-awareness not-for-profit organization. The event will take place May 18 in the Chicago River Ballroom of the Embassy Suites Lakefront, 511 N. Columbus.
School Street has spent 15 years in Chicago's most disadvantaged neighborhoods, using art forms such as theater, rap and hip-hop dance to educate at-risk youth about HIV. For more info about the group, see www.schoolstreetarts.org .