Let’s face it, when you hear the name “Shakespeare,” you might prepare yourself for a solid three-hour nap, and who could blame you. In the upcoming performance of “Titus Andronicus,” however, you’ll have a hard time falling asleep even after the show, let alone during the performance. After all, letting your attention wander as the actors run around in vengeful mayhem could honestly be hazardous to your safety.

Uncharacteristically, this play is being performed as a dinner theater at Douglass Dining Center, with actors running up and down the stairs and even between the tables. The characters do it all – rape, pillage, murder, eat other people and even crack a few jokes. Ancient Rome is the play’s appropriate backdrop for all the violence and gore.

While the language is still Shakespearian, the time gaps in between ancient Rome, the Elizabethan age and the 21st century are hardly an issue due to textual editing.

Student director and Take Five Scholar Jess Davis worked with professor of English Rosemary Kegl to condense the text into a two-hour play.

“I didn’t want to direct a six-hour play,” Davis said.

The talented, emotional acting strategically helps diminish the language barrier. It’s also not hard to understand violence and murder when it is right in front of you. There are over nine on-stage murders, a rape, severed hands and tongues, two beheadings and even some cannibalism.

One of the most unsettling sections is the highly emotional rape scene.

“[The rape may] offend audiences more than anything else,” Davis said, “[but] if people are still in the audience after it, the play reveals a darker, complex side of the human condition.”

While the play is extremely dark, you can’t help but laugh at the exorbitant crudeness of it all.

“You need a sick sense of humor to enjoy this one,” Davis said.

There are dirty sex jokes scattered throughout the entire play and constant puns about severed limbs that you have to pay attention to.

By far, one of the funniest and sickest scenes of the play is when one of the actresses carries a severed hand around the stage in her mouth because her hands, too, have been chopped off.

This play will both thrill and disgust you, and being performed in Douglass makes the atmosphere truly unique.

While there may be parts that don’t appeal to all, the insight into how far people are willing to go to get revenge is extremely dark, but nonetheless true. You’ll definitely leave the performance in chills, and not because it’s late fall in Rochester.

By the end of the play, the actions seem so fowl that you’re drained of all disgust and can’t help but laugh.

“This isn’t the normal pretentious, scholarly Shakespeare,” Davis said, “but something you can really laugh at.” All in all, cynics, this one is just for you.

“Titus Andronicus” will be performed for free at 9 p.m. Nov. 3 through 5 in Douglass Dining Center.

The performance is co-sponsored by the undergraduate English Council and Fashionably Late. Patrons are encouraged to bring their dinner.

Ryan can be reached at dryan@campustimes.org.

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