King Oedipus puts out his own eyes upon grasping the hideous truth of his crimes. Innocent daughter Antigone (Aeriel Williams) is among those who suffer. (Photos by Michael Brosilow)
“Oedipus Rex,” by Sophocles, in translation by Nicholas Rudall, directed by Charles Newell. At Court Theatre through Dec. 8. ★★★★
By Nancy Malitz
As we sit in the small, semicircular, arena-style stage at Court Theatre in Hyde Park, where Sophocles’ ancient drama “Oedipus Rex” unfolds, the audience becomes part of an urgent thriller. Actors prowl the aisles, murmuring that our city Thebes is sinking under “waves of death.” Plague and pestilence have left people terrified.
The explanation for this catastrophe? Unknown. Desperate citizens implore their intrepid king, Oedipus, to figure out what’s going on.
Oedipus outwits the Sphinx (Amphora, c. 450 B.C.)
As portrayed by Kelvin Roston, Jr., one of Chicago’s most explosive actors, brave Oedipus knows he is the obvious choice to rescue Thebes. It was he alone who outwitted a sphinx that menaced the city several years back – a ravenous beast devouring anyone unable to solve her riddles. Clever Oedipus vanquished that monster and became husband to Queen Jocasta, with whom he has sons and daughters. This still youthful king and undisputed hero rules with magisterial pride.
Now Oedipus is tasked with finding the cause of Thebes’ new devastation. He vows avenging wrath upon those responsible, and thus begins Court Theatre’s year-long project to present the impressive 2,500-year-old trilogy of surviving Oedipus-related tragedies by a celebrated tragedian of classical antiquity.
In the first installment, Oedipus will struggle with an oracle’s dread revelation that the cause of Thebes’ misery is a man who has murdered his royal father and defiled the bed of his mother. As harrowing details of Oedipus’s unknown past begin falling into place, the evidence points more and more to the Theban king himself. Read the full story »