Titus Andronicus, wrote Shakespeare, was “the woefull’st man that ever lived in Rome.” Although he’d wholeheartedly served his country as a soldier, he became the victim of pure evil, experienced much grief, and eventually despaired and chose revenge. His name is the title of The Bard’s earliest tragedy, which is currently in repertory at Theatricum Botanicum.

In the fashion of the Roman plays of the time, Titus Andronicus is bloody, sometimes even gruesome. The story includes murder, decapitations, mutilations, rape, cannibalism, and has language that our modern perception sees as basis to discuss race relations and the treatment of women. While Shakespeare set the action in Rome, at Theatricum it happens at some future time, in a republic that is not given a name.

Ellen Geer directs the show, which is mostly faithful to the original play. A cast of about 30 actors is involved. Some are pillars at Theatricum, like Melora Marshall as “Marcia” (Marcus) Andronicus and Willow Geer as Lucia (Lucius). Others are returning, or debuting, tremendous talent, such as Sheridan Crist in the title role, Marie-Francoise Theodore as Tamora, and the imposing Michael McFall as the biggest of evils – the Moor, Aaron.

The chemistry between Tamora and her lover Aaron is palpable, the madness of Titus convincing, and some of the scenes plain out scary. (Due to the latter, your pre-teens should probably stay home for this one.) As an adult, you’ll find yourself with a hand over your mouth at times (be it to cover a laugh or a scream), and you may wonder who on earth would come up with this stuff… but of course... it was Shakespeare.

Consistently entertaining, this is a good one to catch at Theatricum this summer. Titus Andronicus is not often performed, so don’t miss out on this opportunity.

Titus Andronicus will play on selected dates through October 1, 2016. Ticket prices range $25 to $39. The outdoor amphitheater is nestled against the canyon’s hillside, so even if the day is warm, you should bring a jacket for evening performances. Bring also a cushion for bench seating, and a picnic to enjoy in the gorgeous premises prior to the performance.

Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga 90290. Visit Theatricum.com for information and tickets.

Michelle Wicklas as Lavinia / Photo by Miriam Geer

REVIEW - Shakespeare's bloodiest play 'Titus Andronicus' now at Theatricum Botanicum

By Dena Burroughs  --  August 4, 2016