Review: Deaf West Theatre revives ‘Oedipus’ on the Getty Villa

Greek tragedy is commonly handled as pure drama however the surviving performs are solely a blueprint for a extra multilayered theatrical occasion. Students have speculated that the texts could be nearer to libretti for an operatic expertise that’s as mental as it’s emotional — and due to this fact troublesome for us to exactly think about.

For me, Greek tragedy in efficiency is most satisfying when it approaches the depth of a Mass. What Sophocles makes potential in “Oedipus the King,” the cornerstone drama of the Western canon, is a communal meditation on among the profoundest mysteries of the human situation.

Oedipus, paragon of problem-solvers, discovers by the tip of the play the boundaries of his personal eager mind. In making an attempt to outrun his destiny, he learns that he’s a part of a design that’s bigger than his understanding. However it’s as a sufferer of destiny that he finds the liberty to imagine a brave duty for deeds dedicated in ignorance.

Objectively responsible of slaying his father and marrying and bearing youngsters together with his mom, he is aware of that he has turn out to be a pariah for all mankind. Nothing can extenuate the horror of acts he spent his grownup life making an attempt to keep away from. But in accepting his struggling, he leaves a picture of terrifying, sacrificial the Aristocracy, a determine of blind humanity shouldering the disgrace and error of his life.

Jon Wolfe Nelson as Creon within the foreground, with Russell Harvard as Oedipus within the manufacturing on the Getty Villa.

(Craig Schwartz)

A brand new model of “Oedipus,” tailored and directed by Jenny Koons on the Getty Villa’s Outside Theater, retells the story in a theatrical mode that mixes American Signal Language and spoken English. A collaboration with Deaf West Theatre, the manufacturing by no means lets the viewers neglect that the tragedy is larger than the sum of its dialogue.

Gesture and motion specific the eagerness and fury beneath the play’s phrases. Andrew Morrill and Alexandria Wailes tailored the play into American Signal Language, nevertheless it’s the artwork of the actors that augments the impact of common bodily communication.

Video projections by Yee Eun Nam prolong the discreet lyrical dynamism of Tanya Orellana’s scenic design and Jared A. Sayeg’s lighting. The mix of Peter Bayne’s music and sound design operates virtually subliminally. The costumes of Jojo Siu, without delay chicly trendy and timeless, additional the sense that the play is occurring in a classical now.

Initially, the staging appears as if it could be nearer to bounce than drama. However these aware of Deaf West (maybe from the L.A.-based firm’s two greatest successes, “Big River” and “Spring Awakening”) will acknowledge the taking part in sample of getting a task seamlessly signed and spoken by separate actors.

Cast of 'Oedipus' at Getty Villa in a half ring around a person in the center of the stage.

Forged of “Oedipus” at Getty Villa.

(Craig Schwartz)

Among the refrain members are extra eloquent when not talking. The obviousness of dramatic intonation can detract from the summary aesthetic Koons scrupulously achieves. I most well-liked the manufacturing in its dispassionate mode. After all, Oedipus is a passionate drama, frequently exploding in fury and ending in agony. However the emotion is most potent when held within the vise of controlling or fearful human minds.

Russell Harvard’s Oedipus is tyrannical with out understanding himself to be so. Headstrong, impatient and fast to sentence, he struts round with a conceit he believes is completely justifiable. He attained kingship after fixing the riddle of the Sphinx. Having rescued Thebes from one plague, he’s desperate to show his superiority once more by rescuing it from one other.

All he should do is use the assassin of Laius, the previous king whom he changed each on the throne and in Queen Jocasta’s mattress. By no means having met a riddle he couldn’t reply, he gained’t cease till he will get to the underside of his personal identification.

Harvard wears an unlucky crown that appears like one thing a baby would possibly don in a faculty play. Maybe the purpose is the flimsiness of such royal symbols, however the toy cornet robs Harvard’s Oedipus of some dignity. But the star high quality this seasoned performer brings is not possible to disclaim.

Matthew Jaeger, who performs Oedipus Advisor and shadows the protagonist, is afforded correct gravity. His shut interplay with Harvard’s Oedipus helps embody the tragic journey. Harvard would profit at instances from extra restraint, however he intrepidly travels to the acute verge of Oedipus’ saga.

The manufacturing’s grip on our consideration tightens because the story unfolds. It is a credit score each to the miracle of dramatic building that’s Sophocles’ play and to the daring originality of among the characterizations.

Tiresias is re-created by Ashlea Hayes as a Black lady who has lengthy needed to endure the benighted privilege and superciliousness of those that see lower than they’ll probably know. Creon is vibrantly remodeled by Jon Wolfe Nelson right into a Beverly Hills aristocrat, a bit of shallow maybe however capable of maintain his personal when Oedipus turns towards him. Wailes’ Jocasta, a royal matron with sensuality intact, would reasonably her husband cease digging into truths that she more and more suspects would possibly reveal the cracked basis of their marriage.

This model of “Oedipus,” primarily based on a translation of “Oedipus the King” by Ian Johnston, softens a bit on the finish. A sentimentality overseas to Sophocles makes a quick however noticeable look. However the energy of a play that solutions few questions however leaves us stuffed with weighty thought is reborn in a fashion that could be nearer to the theatricality of the Ancients than extra tutorial revivals.


The place: Getty Villa, Outside Theater, 17985 Pacific Coast Freeway, Pacific Palisades

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Ends Oct.1

Tickets: $40-$48

Data: (310) 440-7300 or

Working time: 1 hours, half-hour