Theater review: 'Oedipus El Rey' at the Theatre at Boston Court
Forget Romeo and Juliet: In Luis Alfaro’s “Oedipus El Rey,” now at the Boston Court, it’s ex-con Oedipus (Justin Huen) and barrio widow Jocasta (Marlene Forte) who are sympathetic star-crossed lovers. The two meet and fall in love in the play’s most electric scene, a spellbinding dance of pain and eroticism.
Alfaro updates Sophocles’ tragedy to contemporary East L.A., where shot caller Laius (Leandro Cano) wears bling and Oedipus, raised in the California Youth Authority system, believes his father to be the blind Tiresias (Winston J. Rocha, nicely underplaying). The playwright has a droll, teasing way with the story, lending a refreshingly light touch to very familiar material. His Sphinx is particularly delicious, a sleek, three-headed demon played by the adept chorus.
Director Jon Lawrence Rivera works seamlessly with his team of designers to achieve a stark elegance: John H. Binkley’s striking set — a red stage sliced in two by a set of prison bars — pops under Jeremy Pivnick’s superb lighting, while Robert Oriol’s electric guitar riffs capture the story’s vibe of sex, aggression and unease. It’s an immersive experience, even when Alfaro’s thematic focus strays. Beyond the love story, it’s not quite clear what larger truth this modern Oedipus reveals; the production’s sense of tragedy feels rhetorical rather than visceral. Still, the final image chills. Alfaro may not conjure epic catharsis, but his “Oedipus” makes the point that we all have our blind side.
– Charlotte Stoudt
“Oedipus El Rey,” the Theatre at Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. 8 p.m .Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 28. $32. (626) 683-6883 or www.bostoncourt.org. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Photo: Justin Huen with Michael Uribes and Winston J. Rocha in the background. Credit: Ed Krieger / Boston Court.