Grisel Cambiasso - Recipient of the 2010 The Column nomination for best featured actress in a play (non-equity).
"No one stages the classics of drama like Mark-Brian Sonna, .... [his] imaginative and decisive approach to these historical dramas is effective, elucidating, sharp and frequently wrenching. His current production of Oedipus Rex...has great verve and authority. Using a fairly small cast, costumes both primal and in some ways, quite contemporary, he brings off a version of Oedipus that has clarity, grace and despair."
Christoher Soden, Theatre Critic, EdgeDallas.com
"Must see event."
"It's all Greek to me. Why is it that people are afraid of attending classical theatre--Shakespeare and the Greeks? Their plays offer some of the best writing, plots and characterizations ever seen on stage. Clear, logical, illuminating. Case in point is MBS Productions' current offering Oedipus Rex, a play about a man who gets way too big for his britches with dire consequence. In an elegant, simple manner, Mark-Brian Sonna sheds fresh insight into the ever-conflicted human condition and honors the tradition of one of the oldest and greatest plays ever produced. What's so frightening about that?"
"Oedipus Rex... plays to Sonna's strenghts (he's a trained dancer with a love for the classics as well as a passion for mounting new work)... his dancer's poise and dignity befitted the king, and...he orates eloquently...Six actors play all the roles, including the three-person chorus. I found the Martha Graham-syle movements and draped bodies very effective, and the moves, every one of them elaborately choreographed, quite evocative. The very experienced acting couple Alice Montgomery and Chris Hauge have impressive moments as Jocasta and Creon, as well...I was particularly struck by the young Denton actor plays the chorus leader, Kevin Wickersham. He moves with beautiful precision, and he speaks classically and clearly."
Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News
A World Premier Translation by Ian Johnston
Directed by Mark-Brian Sonna
Mark-Brian Sonna Alice Montgomery Chris Hauge Kevin Wickersham Grisel Cambiasso Joshua Scott Hancock
Oedipus Rex has fascinated audiences for millennia.
This play tells the story of Oedipus and his quest to discover the cause of the plague affecting Thebes. His search leads him to a series of revelations, each more horrific than the next culminating in the most intense and disturbing ending of any play ever written.
This new translation by Ian Johnston is dynamic, yet doesn’t lose sight of the beauty of Sophocles’ poetry while at the same time making it accessible to modern audiences. He has received countless accolades for his work and we are pleased to be the first company he’s granted permission to mount a production of his new translation.
This production will be staged by the same team that brought you last year’s critically acclaimed Dante:Inferno.
It’s all Greek to me. Why is it that people are afraid of attending classical theatre — Shakespeare and the Greeks? Their plays offer some of the best writing, plots and characterizations ever seen on stage. Clear, logical, illuminating. Illustrating this is MBS Productions‘ current offering Oedipus Rex, a famous Greek play about a man who gets way too big for his britches with dire consequence. In an elegant, simple manner, Mark-Brian Sonna’s production sheds fresh insight into the ever-conflicted human condition and honors the tradition of one of the oldest and greatest plays ever produced. What’s so frightening about that?
Good theatre doesn’t need a cast of thousands and a complicated set to make its point. In MBS Productions’ Oedipus Rex three Chorus members (who don’t sing harmony or wear sequined costumes) cover that required base for classical Greek Theatre and double in secondary roles, along with one member of the royal household. Anachronism adherents be damned, it may be traditional to cast a Chorus of twelve or fifteen to express various points of view and “witness” the play’s action in stylized enactment, but it’s overkill for today’s audience. We can think for ourselves, thank you. In addition, Greek theatre focuses more on character development than setting. Simplifying the set in the current production to an upstage curtain entranceway and a stage right altar to the gods allows the beauty of the language and the characters to hold deserved full focus.
What an emotional wallop this play delivers. Mark-Brian Sonna infuses the role of King Oedipus with dignity and regal bearing. He’s clearly a character used to making major decisions that affect the well being of many people. He doesn’t just act like a leader– he is one. Problem is he gets off on feeling omnipotent, and that offends the gods. He’s moved to a foreign land to avoid fulfilling a grisly prophecy (patricide and incest) and assumed a vacant kingship left open by a mysteriously murdered man and married the grieving widow. Problem solved, prophecy neatly side-stepped. Or is it?
As his wife and queen Jocasta, Alice Montgomery also exudes a regal bearing and a worldly-wise maturity. Her firm step and confident delivery tells that this woman has weathered many storms and has prevailed through her strong character and common sense. She creates a grounded mate for Oedipus who is prone to raging rants and mood swings. The four-person Chorus and minor character ensemble weaves effectively around the core couple almost like wraiths or spirits. Draped cloth covers heads and faces or falls back to reveal a character change when needed. As the truth reveals itself leading to suicide and self-mutilation, the chorus establishes the ambience and reflects response of the town’s inhabitants. Clear, logical, illuminating.
Directing the play as well as portraying Oedipus, Sonna incorporates appropriate stylized movement to balance the intellectual thought and emotionally charged expression of the work. Sometimes Greek theatre can seem so esoteric and discursive it’s hard to follow. Not here. MBS Productions uses a new, previously unproduced translation of the Sophocles play by Ian Johnston, which ideally suits Sonna’s movement-based directing style. The cast includes: Kevin Wickersham, Chris Hauge, Grisel Cambiasso and Joshua Scott Hancock. Each does an excellent job of bringing to life an aspect of this ancient great play in a way that allows it full resonance with a modern audience.
We’re all Berliners. We’re all just world citizens capable of being tripped up by fate and destiny, like Oedipus.
Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex by MBS Productions runs through April 25, 2009 at the Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX 75001. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM. Tickets range from $18 - $21. Tickets on the show’s website www.OedipusRex.org or call 214-477-4942. www.mbsproductions.net
Alexandra Bonifield NEA/Annenberg Fellow in Theatre Criticism " by far the best reviewer out there" www.examiner.com http://sjamaanka.wordpress.com/
Christopher Soden, Theatre Critic, EdgeDallas.com
No one stages the classics of drama like Mark-Brian Sonna, who brings his acute understanding of language, movement and the theatrical to plays that were long ago appropriated for the literary canon. Nothing wrong with that of course, but often, pieces like Dante’s Inferno, Othello, Antigone are considered sacrosanct and subsequently given an interpretation that does little to facilitate understanding for the sake of the audience. Not so with Sonna, whose imaginative and decisive approach to these historical dramas is effective, elucidating, sharp and frequently wrenching. His current production of Oedipus Rex, in a new translation of Sophocles by Ian Johnston, has great verve and authority. Using a fairly small cast, costumes both primal and in some ways, quite contemporary, he brings off a version of Oedipus that has clarity, grace and despair.Sonna seems to just instinctively know how to suggest a milieu with a minimum of props, and his extensive background in dance and choreography informs the placement of his actors on the stage, transcending the merely practical to realms of sacred ritual and sacrament.
It has long been a challenge for directors to find ways to stage Ancient Greek Drama that will make it feel relevant to contemporary audiences. It seems odd when you consider the extreme behavior that occurs in them, how remote the intense emotions seem to be from the text. We’re all familiar with the religious aspect of the theatre in ancient Greece and their propensity for keeping the most savage acts of atrocity offstage. But, as if that weren’t far enough removed, the rhetoric has the dual effect of eliciting a philosophical tone while congealing the content. Imagine a mugger sticking a knife in your ribs and responding, “You have stolen my future.” Fortunately,Johnston’s more recent translation helps to mitigate this situation and Sonna has a way of riffing on the lyrical without meandering too far afield. Alice Montgomery, who plays Jocasta, has a knack for makingher dialogue sound like actual conversation, and it grounds the play blissfully. The performers have an obligation to wield meaning over music, and it’s nearly always a good strategy. Recitation should be avoided. The poetry can take care of itself.
Oedipus Rex has always struck me as a curiously grotesque play, even by the bizarre standards of Greek tragedy, where cannibalism, infanticide, human sacrifice and sorcery would seem commonplace. Oedipus the King, in an attempt to discover why his domain has been ravaged by plague, consults an oracle that informs him that the community is being punished for the horrific sins of one man in particular. Eventually he will discover, by way of dogged persistence, megalomania and ruthlessness that he is that man. Shortly after his birth a similar prophecy foretold that he would eventually murder his father and marry his mother. His parents, not realizing they are playing right into destiny’s trap, hand Oedipus off to a servant with orders to kill the boy. The rest is like a perverse game of six degrees of separation. Without knowing his true identity, of course, Oedipus can’t know he is making choices that will return to bite his regal ass.
There are other details. Oedipus, as rulers go, is more despotic than benevolent. The narrative implies that by trying to evade a curse bestowed by the gods, Oedipus’ parentsonly condemn themselves further, but then, who wouldn’t? The play more or less dances around the idea that the king is a disagreeable individual and that there is some karmicjustice in the humbling revelation that has taken the life of the man who begat him and conceived children with the woman who gave him birth. The fact that he was “duped” into this ghastly state of affairs provides no mitigation. One of the most telling moments occurs when Oedipus orders the torture of a frail old man. The elder shepherd is clearly trying to spare Oedipus heartache, but he is agonizingly abused until he divulges the final bit of evidence that will annihilate the antihero of the drama.
For all the ruminations and reflections on the nature of fate and knowledge. For all the contrasts drawn between intellect and impulse, obsession and surrender, the play offers no easy conclusions. Any attempt to assign blame or equate catastrophe with some kind of divine retribution feels like a stretch. Yes, Oedipus at one point dismisses the gods,he’s not devout like Job, but you’d have to be awfully naïve, then or now, to think that misery is only visited upon the wicked. Perhaps it’s because the parents and sons are sovicious and barbaric in the face of upheaval. Perhaps the idea’s that some events are simply, undeniably beyond our control, and we mustn’t take them to heart.
The small, fluid, urgent, and vibrant cast is impressive indeed, evoking chills whether wearing black masks, or draping their heads like condemned prisoners. Mark-Brian Sonna himself plays the tortured king who was “bred to misery”, Alice Montgomery hisQueen, the other cast members : Chris Hauge, Grisel Cambiasso, Joshua Scott Hancock and Kevin Wickersham play the chorus and assorted other roles. Wickersham has a quite an erudite bearing and visage and his delivery lends a sophisticated yet exquisitely tender quality to the proceedings.
Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News
Mark-Brian Sonna had to step into the title role of Oedipus Rex he directed. His dancer background i a plus, but having another eye on the show might have helped him judge theclimaxes better. The whole show is very 1920s and '30 expressionist. Six actors play all the roles, including the three person chorus. I found the Martha Graham-style movements and draped bodies effective, and the moves, every one of them elaborately choreographed, evocative. The vey experiencedacting couple Alice Montgomery and Chris Hauge have impressive moments as Jocasta and Creon, and Kevin Wickersham makes a dignified and well-spoken chorus leader.