Director Ross Williams has an nice, inventive touch, and his production of Titus Andronicus is filled with small but effective flourishes. There is, for example, the large, lit-up target that brandishes the back of the stage, which offers some effective foreshadowing when the newly-minted emperor Saturninus (Vince Gatton) stands in front of it and raises his arms in triumph, unaware that this presents an unmistakable image of coming death. There is also the feed chute in the corner of the stage—each time a character is killed, someone pulls a cord, releasing corn and giving us an aural reminder of the feral nature of Titus‘ narrative. And when Lavinia (Kate Lydic) first loses her hands, the long sleeves of her sweater fall to the ground in lieu of blood.
Still, this does not add up to an entirely successful revival. Titus is surely Shakespeare’s zaniest play, but this take isn’t funny enough, it isn’t shocking enough, and it certainly isn’t gory enough. The energy everywhere lags, the “deep extremes” of emotions are rarely felt. True, Brendan Averett is quite good as Titus. He has the worn, sandy voice of a general who has spent much of his life screaming. And Mr. Gatton is excellent: his Saturninus, with gelled hair and a bright-red ascot, is appropriately prissy, his voice cracking in the rare moments he has to raise it. But Gretchen Edolf’s Tamora is unconvincing, and Warren Jackson has no fun with Aaron the Moor, a part that should be played like Shylock, Richard III, or Johnson’s Volpone—that is, with comic, vulpine relish.
Perhaps the show is somewhat underrehearsed, as the actors drop their lines a little too frequently and the runtime is twenty-five minutes longer than listed in the program. But when done well, Titus Andronicus should rattle us, arouse us, and disgust us—after all, it climaxes with a woman unknowingly eating her own children—here, however, it provokes only restlessness. Mr. Williams is no doubt talented, but in the future he might pay more attention to Shakespeare as a whole and not to the small adjustments that make him feel fresh.