This year marks the 16th season of outdoor theatre in the stunning amphitheater at the Getty Villa. After a string of successful and extraordinary performances of some of the most iconic classical and ancient plays, Oedipus seems like a natural progression through the classical canon. It heralds in their first bilingual outdoor theatre partnership with the internationally acclaimed Deaf West Theatre.
Oedipus is famously a story about a man who loves his mother a little too much, but that’s an often overused and gilded reduction of what is actually an intoxicating story full of tragically bad timing, cursed lives, and the kind of twisted coincidence that only a Greek tragedy can handle. Oedipus is a who dun’ it at heart, a precursor to every Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and John Le Carrier ever written. A series of breathtaking, heartbreaking karmic revelations traced with agonizing pacing, one painful step at a time by Oedipus himself as he unravels the dead King Laius’s story, entwined inextricably with his own.
Oedipus is the new King of Thebes and, in the few short years of his reign, Thebes has fallen into sickness, decimated harvests and civil unrest. In order to solve the issues that plague his city, he turns to the Oracle at Delphi, as you do, and is told in no uncertain terms that he must solve the savage murder of his predecessor, King Laius. He must right the wrong. He finds no help in the city, or from anyone at court. The king was murdered alongside everyone else in his party traveling in the countryside, save one servant. King Laius was tormented by his own Oracle’s prediction, namely that he was cursed to be killed by his son and for his son to then marry his widow.
In order to ensure this could never happen, he sends his only son, as a tiny baby, to be killed in the wilderness by a shepherd of the court. But of course, the shepherd hasn’t the heart to leave him for the wolves and instead gives him to another shepherd, who in turn gives him to the childless King Polybus and Queen Meropeon. Now as a man Oedipus learns from the very same oracle at Delphi that told King Laius of his future, that he is fated to kill his father and marry his mother. So, thinking this means King Polybus and Queen Meropeon, as was never told he was adopted, he leaves the city and journeys to Thebes.
What a way to prove that no one can ever escape their fate and a very very clear lesson for us all that we should always tell our families everything…
Deaf West embraces this debacle with passion, skill, and a deeply felt ironic pain that wrenches at our hearts in every gesture and every glance.
This is my first Deaf West show and I am here to tell you that I was blown away. This show is still with me days and days later. The performances are exceptional, the setting divine and the combination of story, actors, music, costume and truly exquisite adaptation in spoken word and American Sign Language truly magical.
The Getty Villa holds nothing back, you sit in an ancient setting, facing the museum’s facade, as the moon rises and peaks through the clouds and words are spoken about truth and love and lies and death. Together in darkness, on steps built by man to lift them to the gods. A temple to drama. Literally.
I urge you to support this phenomenal play. Step back into our ancient past and be reminded that the human condition has changed very little in the couple of thousand years since Sophocles brought Oedipus to the world. We are all flawed, our lives all hanging by a thread and still subject to the whims of the gods.
Thursdays–Saturdays at 8PM
September 8–October 1, 2022
Getty Villa, Outdoor Theater
Russell Harvard as King Oedipus (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird, King Lear and DWT’s Spring Awakening), Ashlea Hayes (Switched at Birth), Amelia Hensley (DWT’s Spring Awakening), Matthew Jaeger (DWT’s Children of a Lesser God and the 2018 Broadway Revival), Gregor Lopes (DWT and La Phil Fidelio), Andrew Morrill (The Music Man at Olney Theatre Center, Dancing Girls), On Shiu (The Female Gaze, Last Place Trophy), Akia Takara (All About Araya, Insecure), Alexandria Wailes (Broadway’s For Colored Girls, DWT’s Spring Awakening and Big River), and Jon Wolfe Nelson (The L Word, Blacklist).
Set Design by Tanya Orellana, Costumes by Jojo Siu, Lighting Design by Jared A. Sayeg, Projection Design by Yee Eun Nam, and Music and Sound design by Peter Bayne. ASL Choreographers are Andrew Morrill and Alexandria Wailes. DJ Kurs and Laura Hill produce for Deaf West Theatre.