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Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)   
Oedipus Rex

Written by Sophocles  
Conceived and Directed by Mark Boergers
CI Theater, 1422 W. Irving Park (map)
thru March 9  |  tickets: $15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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Impressively creative re-imagining of classic Greek tragedy


Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)


The Arc Theatre i/a/w The Good Night Ladies presents


Oedipus Rex

Review by Joy Campbell

For its inaugural production of its first full season, Arc Theatre takes on the notorious tragedy of Oedipus the King, the tale by Sophocles of the man who unknowingly murders his father and marries his mother. The Arc’s description of its setting is “…a dystopian Thebes where technology is no longer financially viable and sexuality has become currency.” This ambitious context isn’t readily obvious. Yes, there are subtle modern industrial elements: construction lights, a boom box, music that combines electronica with a tribal feel. I particularly enjoyed the clever use of lengths of corrugated metal in place of fluted marble columns. While the entire effect doesn’t evoke the very specific setting described, it nevertheless creates a sense of timelessness where ancient and industrial merge, and it works very well. Kudos to director Mark Boerges for a concept that reinforces Sophocles’ amazing script rather than competes with it.

Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)
Conjuring up supernatural archetypes in Greek mythology, the chorus of Theban Women (Lana Smithner, Jessica Marks, Aislinn Kerchaert, Eve Rydberg) is re-imagined as a chorus of drug-injecting prostitutes. Gorgeous, feline, powerful, these women incorporate the role of the chorus with that of other minor characters, and through voice, movement, and sound lend a potent sensuality, whether actively participating in the action or observing it. They could as easily be priestesses for the sway they hold; their presence hangs in the air like incense at the altar of Athena.

Using the original translated text, the cast does an impressive job with the stylized language, bringing to life the story of a man doomed by that old Greek-tragedy staple, Fate. Told by the Oracle of Apollo that the sickness besetting Thebes is the result of a man who must be exiled from the city, King Oedipus declares a manhunt in order to save Thebes, unaware that he himself is the man in question. Distraught at the state of things, Oedipus becomes insecure and begins to suspect those around him of treason. Digging further into the city’s past, he begins to have forebodings about his own.

The telling of Oedipus is a tricky one. The broken taboo that has given it so much notoriety is the same that makes it a delicate subject to stage: incest between a mother and son. That the actions of Oedipus and Jocasta spring from ignorance does not spare them any horror or guilt. As Oedipus, Aram Monisoff does an excellent job of portraying a man driven by creeping paranoia into ostracizing his allies. As Jocasta, wife to Oedipus and former wife to the slain king, Lucy Sandy is well cast – she must be old enough to be Oedipus’ mother, but young enough to be of child-bearing age. (given that women were frequently married to older men at a young age, it is plausible that the former king could have been significantly older than she). Sandy has an ageless face and a royal bearing that indicates a woman of maturity but not a woman of advanced age. While I believed the love between her and Oedipus, there is little in the way of sexual chemistry, which might add much to their dynamic and make the revelations of identity more wrenching. And while Sandy’s restrained manner and delivery work well for much of the show, there are times when I wanted to see a break in control, some strong emotion, such as at the revelation of the horrible truth that it drives her to suicide. Still, her presence on stage is compelling.

Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)

As Kreon, Teddy Boone does a wonderful job as the dead king’s brother and friend to Oedipus. My only issue with him is that he’s too young for the role. His strength as an actor helps offset this, and this is, after all, Greek drama, where situations are extreme and much disbelief is happily suspended.

The staging of Oedipus’ self-blinding is an odd choice, given that the director has, until this moment, relied on the rich language of the script to describe the offstage action. Having this played out for us in the background while described by one of the women feels jarring and gratuitous. The scripted description, with its gory detail, would suffice, followed as it is by the entrance of the blinded king.

Despite these minor flaws, this is a very well executed, creative, and entertaining piece of theater. Sophocles’ script is gorgeous, and is the mother of all mysteries (no pun intended). As more information comes to light, we can feel the noose of fate tightening around the neck of Oedipus as his frantic piecing together of the past uncovers one terrible truth after another. The performances are overall excellent, and the intimate theater space is well used, with influences of The Good Night Ladies evident in the movement, song, speech, rhythm, and physicality — particularly by the women — creating a powerful, almost religious atmosphere of ritual. Well done, Arc; welcome to Chicago.


Rating: ★★★



Oedipus Rex continues through March 9th at Chemically Imbalanced Theater, 1422 W. Irving Park (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $15, and are available by phone (872-216-1304) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission)

Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)

Photos by Jason Hiett




Lana Smithner (Chorus Leader), Teddy Boone (Kreon), Jessica Marks (Chorus, Teiresias), Aislinn Kerchaert (Chorus / Messenger), Eve Rydberg (Chorus / Shepherd), Aram Monisoff (Oedipus), Lucy Sandy (Jocasta)

behind the scenes

Mark Boergers (director); Cailin Short (assistant director, designer); Corinne Bass (stage manager); Diego Báez (dramaturg); Dustyn Martincich (movement coordinator); Jordan Kardasz (lighting designer); Jason Hiett (asst. lighting designer, ME, photos); Chris Rickett (fight director); Matthew Reich (sound designer); Natalie Frederick (jewelry, costume additions); The Good Night Ladies: Jessica Marks, Eve Rydberg (costume design, styling, movement).

Review: Oedipus Rex (The Arc Theatre)


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