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Posted at 2:27 PM ET, 07/10/2009

'Titus X': Completely Bloody Insane

By Peter Marks
Fringe Festival

I decided to begin my Fringe journey this year at "Titus X," a rousingly deranged piece of entertainment that answers the question: What gruesome classical play would be voted least likely to make it as a musical?

Yes, this is a punk-rock version (by Shawn Northrip) of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" -- you know, the dainty tragedy in which young Lavinia has her tongue cut out and hands chopped off, and Titus serves up his adversaries for dinner, a la Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in "Sweeney Todd."

Lavinia's tongue must have been set firmly in her cheek before it got sliced off, though. The show is a punk parody with an eardrum-piercing band and a fixation on the f-word. There are funny facets to the mayhem, especially when Northrip and director Shirley Serotsky send up Shakespeare and musical theater conventions at once.

I first saw this show in 2003 at Source theater, when it was called "Titus! the Musical." It's more deftly performed now; the jokes play better (I still love it when Lavinia, satisfyingly portrayed by Anne Marie Dalton, croons sans tongue. It goes something like this: "Oooo, aaaaah, ooooo, aaaaaah.") The rest of the cast -- Kevin Duffin, Cesar A. Guadamuz, Andrew Honeycutt, Emily Webbe, little Beckett Martin and, especially, Jason Stiles, reprising his assured turn as Titus -- are swell.

It does go on a mite too long (or maybe my taste for punk is underdeveloped), but it does answer the question. Yes, "Titus X" makes "Sweeney Todd" seem like "The Sound of Music."

-- Peter Marks

This is the first of many short reviews of Fringe Festival plays that Stephanie Merry, Nelson Pressley and I will be posting on the Going Out Gurus blog. We'll post daily after we see shows, so you can find out which ones you should run to get tickets for and which ones are busts.

By Peter Marks  | July 10, 2009; 2:27 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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I loved Titus, too Peter. I named Anne Marie Dalton a fringe Musical Scene Stealer in my article which will appear on this Thursday.
Love your and Nelson's reviews.I invite your readers to follow our Fringe coverage on DC Theatre Scene. We are reviewing all 122 shows. Hope to bump into you at The Fringe.

Posted by: joel3 | July 12, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I really enjoyed it, probably more than I thought I would. It's not for everyone. Among other things, there's rape, mutilation, and a heck of a lot of murder. But that's Shakespeare's fault. The generous smattering of vulgar language is hardly out of place. The music was good, the voices were strong, and there's plenty of levity to buoy the mood of a (let's face it) potentially pretty depressing story. The cast does great work with minimal props. I didn't think that the music was overpoweringly loud when I went Saturday, and I was sitting on the second row pretty much under a speaker. It IS a rock musical, after all. I may go back for the final show on Thursday.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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