Who’s Afraid Of Titus?

“Art is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” -Cesar A. Cruz

Sky regularly pumps out plays that provoke, entertain and challenge the status quo and this is no exception. Who’s Afraid Of Titus? is director Sky Gilbert’s latest play and perhaps one of his most provocative and salacious offerings.

Written around the 1590’s, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, is thought to be his first revenge tragedy and arguably one of his least respected plays. The graphic violence was not well received in the Victorian era, however today he might have had a different response. Sky’s decidedly queer reworking of this story takes things to a whole other level. If there was an award for the most triggers in one play, Who’s Afraid Of Titus? would win, bloody hands down. Misogyny, bondage, torture, fisting, sadomasochism and rape are just the tip of the dick. And so why would anyone put themselves through this?

Because the actors make magic with this script. 

Titus Andronicus, a noble roman general, played by Brian Smegal, had me tearing up right at the start of the play and just the beginning of a deliciously devious rollercoaster ride.

Longtime theatre veteran Elley-Ray Hennessy plays Tamora, Queen of the Goths, and later Empress. A sexy Medusa meets Amy Winehouse character who is as feared as as she is adored and as funny and she was scary. Elley-Ray had the audience eating from the palm of her hand. One moment she’s an over-the-top dominatrix and the next scene she’s presenting like a true queen, drag queen that is.

The play continues in the theatre’s parking lot.

Then there’s Veronika Hurnik who transitions between four different roles; narrator, Saturninus, Young Lucius and the nurse. At several intervals, it was her character(s) that corralled the audience, moving them in, out and around the theatre making the us part of the performance. And we were. People with mobility issues were provided a link to a prerecorded video of the scenes as we were experiencing them which was a thoughtful touch.

At one point she lead us down a flight of stairs into a spooky-as-hell unfinished basement where we witnessed a wonderfully creepy interaction between Titus and his brother Marcus Andronicus, played by Sandy Crawley.

Basement scene, (R to L) Titus Andronicus and his brother.

Titus’ daughter, Augusta Monet was the perfectly sweet Lavinia1 for the first part of the play but it was Lavinia2 played by George Alevizos who was reminiscent of the horror film The Changing. Even when Lavinia2 was just sitting motionless, the energy in the room was transmuted.

A full house and standing ovation.

This is pure Shakespeare in a blender, designed to shock, provoke and titillate. As funny as it is scary, this performance was billed as a workshop, making me wonder what the next incarnation will look like. And while, at the time of this writing, there’s no concrete plans to take this to a larger stage, it’s destined for success. When Who’s Afraid Of Titus? returns to the stage, don’t walk, bloody run to it! •

Main image poster art by Kirsten Johnson.

Who’s Afraid of Titus?
Red Sandcastle Theatre
August 31 – September 3, 2022

Titus Andronicus (a noble roman general) — Brian Smegal
Tamora (Queen of the Goths and later Empress): — Elley-Ray Hennessy
Aaron the Moor (Tamora’s Lover) — Ray Jacildo
Marcus Andronicus (Titus’ brother) — Sandy Crawley
Lavinia1 (Titus’ daughter) — Augusta Monet
Lavinia2: (Titus’ daughter) — George Alevizos
Demetrius (Tamora’s son) — Max Ackerman
Chiron(Tamora’s son) — John Humeniuk
Narrator/Saturninus/Young Lucius (Titus’ grandson)/Nurse — Veronika Hurnik 

Stage Manager: Garrett Mallory Scott