Theater Review: Oedipus Complex—another success for Frank Galati

Frank Galati takes Oedipus, the King by Sophocles and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and ingenuously weaves them together into an unforgettable piece of theater at the Goodman in Chicago. A darker drama does not exist, and Galati’s view and staging give the piece a new aspect.

Opening with Freud center stage and the Men of Thebes seated in ranked rows as if jurors in a courtroom, we immediately sense a unique performance. Sophocles’ Greek chorus often become narrators, and the Men of Thebes, through poetic choral speech and choreographic movement, enhance the entire performance.

Both the set and costumes in black emphasize the somber tale. Tailcoats of the early 1900s and the lone female, Jocasta’s jet-trimmed gown, reinforce that idea. Freud (Nick Sandys) narrates, bringing together the story of Oedipus, the dire predictions that so destroyed his life, and Freud’s use of the mother, father, son relationship that became the center of his analysis.

So much of Greek mythology focuses on predictions of oracles. Once spoken, the fate of mere humans cannot be changed. So Oedipus’ destiny, predetermined at his birth, came to pass, in spite of his parents’ attempt to put him to death and his own flight back to Thebes to avoid killing his father and marrying his mother.

In an interview, Galati says: “As tragic as the action is, in spite of the unthinkable self-wounding…Oedipus rains down upon his own eyes…if the hero is brought to some state of self-knowledge…better to see and be blind. I find the last line of the chorus enormously powerful: ‘Keep your eyes on the last day, on your dying. Happiness and peace, they were not yours, unless at death you can look back on your life and say, ‘I lived.’”

Oedipus runs through June 3. Tickets may be purchased at the box office at 170 N. Dearborn or by phoning (312) 443-3800. Parking is available at the Government Garage (entrance on Wells). For a discount, get a parking voucher at the box office.

It’s an intellectually stimulating evening of theater.

from May 23-29, 2007, issue

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