“Titus Andronicus” Produced by Seattle Shakespeare

Seattle Shakespeare makes sure there’s no shortage of blood in this campy version of “Titus Andronicus” Shakespeare’s most violent and bloody play. Sex, mutilation, murder, and perfidy certainly were popular subjects in Elizabethan London when audiences flocked to see the ghastly suffering of poor Titus and his family. Audiences still hunger for viciousness and brutality in many forms. Look at the popularity of Quentin Tarantino, Wes Craven, and others of their ilk. So “Titus…” is well chosen for today’s society.

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Photo by John Ulman.

Director David Quicksall has managed to pack this production with as much gore as the most devoted horror fan could want, yet there’s a comic edge to most of it. You may not expect to laugh at cannibalism, but you will here.

Titus, the victorious general returns in glory to Rome after defeating the Goths and capturing their Queen Tamora and her three sons. In their party is Aaron, the Queen’s conniving secret lover, a man to be watched, a man capable of much mayhem (in the manner of Iago). The emperor Saturninus is seduced and marries Tamora. So begins the blood bath.

Brothers, sons, and husband-to-be are all dispatched leaving heartbroken loved ones determined to have their revenge. In their quest limbs are chopped off and a tongue cut out. A sweet young thing is raped. A mixed race baby is spirited away, and the whole gruesome tale culminates in a feast whose main course includes some of the dearly departed.

Believe me when I tell you this was in Shakespeare’s time, his most popular play. I can’t tell you if it was campy then, but this production’s great strength is the manner in which it’s played tongue -in-cheek with a slap-stick verve.

In addition to the really good acting, much of the credit for its success goes to the production team: set—Carol Wolfe Clay, lighting—Andrew D. Smith, Sound—Nathan Wade, and video designer—MJ Sieber. Director Quicksall has brilliantly drawn all this talent together to provide us with a horror story of enormous proportions that amuses rather than terrifies.

Through Feb. 7, at Center Theatre, in the Armory, Seattle Center, (206 733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.com).

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