Finding Mahan Theatre to see Titus Andronicus proved to be as difficult as finding anything not to be impressed with in this humble production. Upon entering the Beaux style theater built in 1907, I was moved by the modest staging of the play in such a Grande Theatre of Olde. The set and it players felt as if they, and the minor sprinkling of spectators, were in peril of being swallowed by the enormity of the theatre itself. It gave rise to something within me I would imagine being similar to buying tickets to a boxing match. Just my luck: my first assignment was the Palooka? I quietly found a seat, a bit nervous about the pummeling.
It was Saturninus,(James Frevola), and Bassianus (Jonathon Lucas) appearing before the Senate in competition for the crown that started the show. The immense, empty space was literally suffused by these two young men and the first of many solid jabs was delivered. I was immediately attracted to both of them in character for very different and opposing reasons and even pondered…I wonder how much is acting? They were good.
Enter Marca (Jenn Underhill) to introduce the Great Titus, (Michael McPherson). Underhill carried her weight well and proved to be a worthy support ringside to her Titus throughout the play. I enjoyed her presence. And for his part, McPherson commanded a bare-knuckle fight. Not only was his character a heavy weight but so was his echo in the ancient (1907 qualifies) arena. And I tell you, it is a sight to see.
Jamie Moroney (Tamora) easily played a Queen with no feeling and readily evoked dislike. While Lavinia, sweetly and aptly played by Katie MacVarish, took a few hits for the director, Christy Stanlake, when she is left for long moments with no direction – particularly after she is soaking in her own blood and is the center of conversation and the audiences attention. Lucius (Dan Ulerio) rocked; he reminded me of the lead singer of Green Day, so if your a fan -theres an additional reason to come and admire this show’s gusto.
Shakespeare’s work can sometimes be hard to follow, but the covers of these books spoke clearer than the sometimes overwhelming dialogue. I winced at first sight of Chiron (Eric Lies) and Demetrius (Michael Donovan). What happened to these guys’ costumes? I instantly had a feeling of “ YUCK “ for them. And rightly so, I figured out. I just hope those punks were good actors, if you know what I mean. Another deft underhand was in Aaron, played by Michael Foster. He was all but naked wearing a cloak of liquid-like Gold. Money is the root of all evil, but don’t we all lust after it? And this guy was nothing short of temptation.
Any names I’m not mentioning is meant in no disrespect because everyone who stepped onstage, as well as working off, was instrumental in this David and Goliath face-off. In short, this underprivileged and overlooked production conjured a standing ovation from a full house – if only by the ghosts of theatre and I believe Shakespeare was the first one standing.
Running Time: Two and a half hours with no intermission.
Titus Andronicus by the U.S. Naval Academy Masqueraders, played through November 4, 2012 at the Mahan Theatre at the U.S. Naval Academy – 107 Maryland Avenue, in Annapolis, MD.