Review by Kelly J Clark – Showbill.ca Writer
May 11, 2017
Jocasta Regina is a competent play, but its material frustratingly under utilizes the cast and crew, who all deserve a better forum in which to showcase their considerable talents.
For those uninitiated with the myth of Oedipus, here’s a brief summary: the king of Thebes is told that his son is prophesized to one day kill him but rather than kill the infant is convinced by his wife to give the baby to a local shepherd to expose. Naturally, the shepherd has a change of heart, the boy is adopted by the king and queen of Corinth, grows up to be a clever boy who outwits the Sphinx, kills some travelers in an altercation, and then marries the queen of the country he just saved: Thebes. Thing go well until the truth is outed some twenty years later and from there it all goes south quickly.
Jocasta Regina is a play about taboo that follows the very Canadian obsession with adapting a Greek myth for the stage by flipping the narrative to focus on the female lead’s perspective. Unlike Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, however, which focused on the wife of Odysseus, Jocasa Regina as an independant story lacks much of the substance for a cohesive, moving drama. Even in this adaptation, Jocasta is resigned to a supporting role within her own story who begins as a victim and ends as an emotional rapist. While this journey could be an interesting one of self discovery and downfall, it instead relies on a half hearted Shyamalan-ian twist in the final act: Jocasta knew that Odysseus was her son the entire time.
However, while the play itself is lazy and insipid, this production of Jocasta Regina by Theatre Inconnu is by no means bad. It is competently directed and employs clever uses of lighting, sound, and visual trickery. The set design at Theatre Inconnu, as well, does not cease to surprise that they always find a way to do so much with such a small stage.
The performances are good as well. Wendy Magahay anchors the production with a strong, physical performance as Jocasta that belies love, pain, and mania sure to leave audiences squirming in their seats.
Montgomery Bjornson, our Oedipus, plays the role with both gentle, loving passion and the eye-clawing dismay we expect of Greek tragedy.
Amber Landry and Autumn Antonsen as the couple’s daughters, Antigone and Ismene, are a phenomenal tag team of preteen proportions. The pair manage the impossible by convincingly portraying characters half their ages without falling into the traps of trope.
Geli Bartlett as Eudoxia, Jocasta’s attendant, plays her role with the softness of a Shakespearian nurse, but is unceremoniously banished by the script before she has time to grow.
Finally, Catriona Black shatters the fourth wall and flirts with the audience as Corypheus (essentially the narrator of Greek plays), with the panache and flair of Tilda Swinton mimicking David Bowie. It’s something worth seeing.
The most maddening thing about this production isn’t the taboo subject matter, twisted reveal, or frustratingly overdone tropes of the script: it’s that there is so much potential in the cast and crew that could have gone into a more worthwhile play. This is confounding, as Theatre Inconnu reportedly had some difficulty acquiring the rights to the obscure Jocasta Regina.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Jocasta Regina, is a solid play that is worth seeing by virtue of the talented cast and crew, but those same ingredients and a different script could have created something magical.