nytheatre.com review by Chad Gracia
Elephant Titus is a reduced and
warped retelling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. In this
adaptation, our hero returns from war with lymphatic filariasis (aka
elephantiasis), which has caused his genitals to become horribly
inflamed (these elements of the disease are thankfully left to our
imagination). Thus, he is quarantined by the Emperor Saturninus. A plot
is hatched between Saturninus’ lover Tamora and the Porter to rape and
mutilate Titus’ daughter. In return, Mr. Andronicus concocts his
gruesome revenge, a la Shakespeare.
August 15, 2003
David Lavine’s script contains some interesting monologues, funny one liners, lots of puns, and a pair of disembodied voices that comment on the action from somewhere in the back of the house. The production also presents dream sequences composed of absurdist dance numbers (Titus in top hat) and projected video of the worms that cause elephantiasis.
John Paul Skocik’s Porter has some humorous moments, as does the schoolgirl Lavinia (Sandra Toll) and the slinky Tamora (Laura Poe). My favorite performances were the Whispering Man (Mark Flores) and Whispering Woman (Rachel Lederman), who provide funny commentary on the dark events of the play.
If you want to learn more about lymphatic filariasis or enjoy macabre and spare riffs on Shakespearean tragedies, then this play is for you. If you’re like me, however, you’ll probably just be confused. There is little drama and the theme is muddled. Extraneous material (such as the video projections and the whispering couple) could have aided the story, but instead they detract from it. It’s hard to see what—besides the pun in the title and the obvious opportunities for low humor—inspired Lavine to link Titus Andronicus and a disease that inflames the glands.