Arts & Leisure

“Oedipus Rex” on the screen

A FULL PRODUCTION of “Oedipus Rex” was staged at Golden West College on Huntington Beach and is available on video (GWC photo).

By Thom deMartino/Orange County Tribune

In the fall of 2021, while most of Orange County’s theater community were reeling from on-again, off-again safety regulations, Golden West College Theater director Tom Amen came up with an innovative compromise for his new adaptation of Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” : stage a full production of the classic study of a man’s hubris and fatalistic folly, only film and tightly edit it for viewers to watch on their devices, in their homes, or wherever was the most comfortable for them.

At long last, “Golden West College – Oedipus Rex” is now online, free for public viewing on YouTube, at https://youtu.be/dIvuwKauqK4 . Only 91 minutes long, with a stylized look and structure and interpreted by a seasoned cast of top-tier thespians, the venerated ancient Greek play comes to dark and mesmerizing life for viewers.

Ominous times have fallen upon the city of Thebes, as a mysterious plague decimates the populace: livestock wasting away, crops razed… the desperate citizens are certain their city is cursed. Even their celebrated king and vanquisher of the monstrous Sphinx, the wise and beneficent Oedipus (Patrick Peterson) has no solution, appealing to the citizens of Thebes to help him solve this new and terrible riddle.

After consulting the Oracle of Delphi, the king’s brother-in-law and trusted adviser Creon (Scott Keister) returns to tell him that the gods have indeed unleashed their wrath upon the city for the unsolved murder of Oedipus’ predecessor, King Laius. The priest of Thebes (Matt Koutroulis) interjects that Laius and his entourage were slain years before, the guilty parties never found, and the sole survivor of the carnage retired to the country.

Determined to follow all the threads of the mystery to their conclusion (think “C.S.I.: Thebes”) Oedipus vows before the gods that the murderers will be found, punished, driven from the city, and any who aid them will suffer the consequences as well.

PATRICK PETERSON stars in the title role.

After sending for the lone survivor to bear witness, the king is visited shortly thereafter by the blind prophet Tiresias (the ever-adroit Scott Keister again, playing dual roles in yet another GWC production)… yet the old man remains evasive to his queries, insisting it would be best for all if Oedipus just let things lie.

The usually magnanimous king is enraged by Tiresias’s sidestepping of his questions, the prophet insisting the monarch let him leave, quit travelling down this path to learn this heinous truth… but when the seer reluctantly reveals the dark secret, the king refuses to believe, choosing instead to see naught but conspiracies and intrigues against him.

Facts, witnesses, ghastly prophecies — the threads are slowly coming together, but can the embattled sovereign permit himself to see the awful totality of it all? Because ultimately, the justice of the gods will not be mocked… nor their judgement evaded.

While viewers can follow the link herein to YouTube to see this striking version of “Oedipus Rex”, the film is also easily available to view from the GWC Theater Department webpage at https://www.gwctheater.com/oedipus-rex-2021-22/ : viewers can click to watch the film in its entirety, or peruse the page to read a summary and check out some cast photos. (The film is also in the process of being more diligently captioned to be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, to help ensure access to the broadest possible audience.)

The bleak, poetic irony of “Oedipus Rex” is that none of the characters are at their hearts truly corrupt: they’re just terribly flawed mortals. Carrie Vinikow’s moving Queen Jocasta is fiercely determined to do all in her power to protect her husband — but her calm facade begins splintering upon glimpsing the dark truth. Scott Keister in the dual roles of Creon and Tiresias skillfully provides both voice of reason to the increasingly unravelling king, as well as the world-weary soothsayer with no patience for fools heedless to his warnings.

Peterson’s bold, exceptional performance as the titular Oedipus is the foundation of the show, the audience bearing witness to his initially empathetic and beloved leader, a respected figure increasingly unable to bear the weight of the dreadful truth creeping inevitably closer; whose grip on reality becomes increasingly untethered the closer he gets to the harrowing revelations.

With Tim Mueller’s elegant art deco-styled set design, Amanda Martin’s stylish costumes and intriguingly surreal geometric mask designs (note Oedipus’ own crown itself is a mask to hide his true face) and the incandescent performances by the players and chorus — not to mention ease of access, from anywhere – “Golden West College – Oedipus Rex” is a masterful one for the ages.

“Oedipus Rex”, Patrick Peterson, Carrie Vinikow and Scotty Keister star in this filmed version of the Golden West College theater production. Free to watch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/dIvuwKauqK4 or through the Golden West College Theater page at https://www.gwctheater.com/oedipus-rex-2021-22/ . Mature content.

 

 

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