Oedipus, Who? | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Oedipus, Who?


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Oedipus, Who?, Bailiwick Repertory. In Ronald Jiu's adaptation of Sophocles' tragedy, Thebes is a deaf community and its citizens communicate through a combination of sign language and spoken words: the Greek chorus provides not only the narration but also the main characters' lines. The story remains intact--Oedipus (Robert Schleifer) becomes king when he solves the Sphinx's riddle. Seeking his true heritage from the oracle Teiresias (Marc Lessman), he uncovers a prophecy: a son shall kill his father and marry his mother. Undertaking an ill-fated search, Oedipus unveils the prediction's truth.

Jiu's staging is clean, clear, symmetrical, efficient--but not dramatic. Of course Sophocles' drama hinges on a growing sense of dread as we watch Oedipus stumble into fate's trap. But this production is more conveyor belt than dramatic trajectory, offering a smooth but unquestionably flat ride. Also, separating the characters and the actors speaking their lines--a device that's added an interesting dimension to other plays--in this case creates an uncomfortable feeling of detachment despite the emotional range of the chorus's voices. (This was probably less disconcerting for deaf audience members, who were also spared the faint sounds of the Naked Boys Singing performance next door.) Bailiwick's obviously talented group of deaf artists have learned every word and movement by heart--they simply need to find the heart in their words and movements.

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