Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Girlfriend
Director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, who also plays the vicious (if, at times, justified) Tamora, Queen of the Goths, have given the 95-minute production a feverish look and pace on Phil Chartwood's seemingly subterranean scenic design with Brian S. Allard's beams of light visible through haze. The major pieces of scenery are several large rectangular boxes, which can suggest battlements or coffins, and washes of red light symbolize the frequent flow of blood.
Shakespeare set his story in a fictionalized Roman Empire, but the lure of people to destroy each other is timeless. Titus (Philip Fletcher, commanding and ultimately tortured), leader of the Roman troops battling the Goths, captures Tamora, her three remaining sons, and her confidant and secret lover, Aaron the Moor (Audrey Tchoukoua), after witnessing Tamora killing one of his own sons. He reciprocates for his son's death by sacrificing the oldest of Tamora's remaining sons to the Roman gods in thanks for his victory. Matters progress from there.
The Tsikurishvilis understand how to make stage images that resonate, including the contrast of Tamora, in sparkling red and black, and Titus' daughter Lavinia (Irina Kavsadze), in gauzy white (Erik Teague has designed the costumes, some of which border on expressionistic); the battle for power between the two sons of the dead emperor, aggrieved Saturninus (Dan Istrate) and headstrong Bassianus (Scott Whalen); Tamora's feral sons Demetrius (Dallas Tolentino) and Chiron (Alex Mills), smeared with dark makeup to suggest masks and dressed in the manner of contemporary "Goths"; Aaron, majestic yet agile; and Titus' sister Marcia (Tori Bertocci), Marcus in the original play, who provides maternal warmth along with gravity.