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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 30, 2024


Dec. 1, 2001 – Attention, theater enthusiasts! The University of the Virgin Islands theater area is doing something quite unusual which deserves your consideration. New UVI faculty member Michael Prenevost is staging his own adaptation of the Sophocles tragedy "Oedipus the King" as simply "Rex." For the Little Theatre production, he has brought the work into the present time and placed it in a generic, large, city state.
The young student cast is in fine form, and the collaborative efforts of veteran faculty members Dennis Parker and Rosary Harper have seen to it that the production is a reflection of the growth being experienced in the level of refinement of the Speech Communication and Theatre Area as a whole.
It is important for modern theatergoers to keep in mind that, to the audience in Sophocles' time, attending Greek tragedy was an entirely different experience from what we look to experience at the theater. First of all, it was presumed that the audience knew the plot from legend and myth. They were not coming to see what would happen nearly so much as they were coming to see "how" the playwright would treat the subject. These tragedies were created as part of religious festivals in honor of Dionysus and were performed as competition pieces. Aristotle held up Sophocles' treatment of the Oedipus legend as the most nearly perfect example of classical tragedy in the Western humanistic tradition.
Keeping this in mind, adapting a classical myth or legend to a modern audience should not be seen in the same light as taking liberties with the language or setting of a Shakespearean play. The fact that Prenevost stays as closely as he does to the Sophocles treatment of the legend could, in fact, be considered a drawback. His introduction of a rapper in place of the Greek chorus and the social ills of our time in place of the pestilence that was depicted by Sophocles are two very successful ways of showing the timelessness of the myth.
Some of his more localized political innuendos did not fly as well to this viewer, who found his mind dragging out old island laundry, looking for a parallel to the staged event. What seemed most at odds to the message of the original was the lack of spiritual tragic flaw on the part of Rex and Jocasta and catharsis on the part of the audience. The hubris and blasphemy are missing. Jocasta is presented as a pious and altogether innocent woman. While Rex is a bit conceited and arrogant, he certainly does not come across in this text as putting himself on the level of the gods. These reservations aside, the play is a noble experiment, and the production laudable.
Tavis De Windt, in the title role, shows serious development of his acting skills since his last appearance at the Little Theater. He meets the wide range of emotional and physical challenges of the production at all times, showing flashes of inspired acting in several scenes. Wanda Evans is convincing and pathetic (in the most positive sense of that term) as Jocasta. She not only manages to convey a very clear portrayal of the loyal, regal and loving wife who wants to make things right; she also is able to bring out the best from the other actors with whom she makes definite connection.
Chip Brookes gives a very respectable portrayal of Creon. He has good stage presence and is able to convey a nobility and devotion to duty that is greater than the Castro-wannabe that his costume suggests. The camouflage fatigues are generic enough, but the cigar is lame and has got to go. To this reviewer, the more specific the identification of a character to a single individual of our sphere of knowledge, the weaker that character becomes as a means of identification of universal characteristics to be found in the heart and soul of the viewer. It is such a universal identification which is at the heart of Greek tragedy — believed by the sages to be capable of producing moral improvement in the audience.
Dwyght Browne is back in the role of the priest. Those who saw him in "JC Superstar" will not have forgotten his ability to fill a stage. This young man has wonderful potential as a character actor. It is a pleasure to watch his progress. Trey Thomas brought an interesting spin to the role of Teiresias. The adaptation takes away much of the rather sanctimonious indignation of Sophocles' portrayal in favor of a tired prophet who simply must tell nothing but the truth and obey his sovereign if he wants to be able to get any rest.
Diego Lima III, as the Fed X messenger, and Charles Homer, who plays the security guard who was with the former king when he was killed, also deserve special mention. They manage to get to the core of their short but crucial and psychologically effusive roles.
Those who care deeply about the arts on the island are encouraged to make it to the Little Theater, support our aspiring actors and welcome Michael Prenevost.
The play continues in the Little Theatre Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee, and Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students. They're being sold at Dockside Bookshop, Nisky Pharmacy and the UVI bookstore, as well as at the door.
Editor's note: Roger Lakins teaches English and humanities at Antilles School. He was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1994 and has been recognized as a Distinguished Educator by the National Department of Education.

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