Classic violence: Shakespeare in Washington

Grappling for something to keep you and your parents entertained during commencement week? Here’s a fresh idea: take them to a show. D.C. is currently participating in the “Shakespeare in Washington” program, so if your parents are into iambic pentameter, you’re in luck.

Now playing at the Shakespeare Theatre, “Titus Andronicus” is bringing all of its gore to the D.C. stage. Directed by Gale Edwards, who has earned much success at the theatre for directing both “Hamlet” and “Richard III,” “Titus Andronicus” is one of Shakespeare’s earliest works and is said to be his most violent. The tragedy centers around the character, Titus, a Roman general who rages against Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Seems like a typical Shakespearean text; violence occurs, someone vows to seek revenge, multiple story lines play out, somebody goes “crazy,” and everyone dies in the end.

However, unlike many of Shakespeare’s other, more tame works, this show is certainly not for the faint of heart. Titus kills one of Tamora’s sons in the beginning of the play, launching the Queen into a mission of revenge. Tamora then frames two of Titus’s sons for murder and has them beheaded. Next, she convinces her own sons to rape Titus’s daughter, Lavinia. The sons rape Lavinia and cut off her hands and tongue to prevent her from speaking of the crime. Oh, and don’t forget the human pie. These killings are merely scratching the surface of the violence that occurs in “Titus Andronicus.” Rape, beheadings and cannibalism spice up Shakespeare’s text, paving the way for a very entertaining play.

“Titus Andronicus” runs about two hours and 35 minutes and will be playing until May 20. For tickets, contact the box office at (202) 547-1122 or visit their website at www.shakespearetheatre.org.

Have a hankering for “Hamlet,” but can’t find the real deal? Try checking out the Studio Theater’s performance of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Told from the perspective of Shakespeare’s two minor characters, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” follows two of Hamlet’s buddies through their own adventures in Denmark. The two minor characters become the major focus of playwright Tom Stoppard’s piece, creating an interesting view of both the action in “Hamlet” and the characters themselves. A comedy full of bizarre characters, witty repartee and many talks about existentialism, Stoppard provides audiences with a unique look at Shakespeare.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” opens May 16 at the Studio Theatre. For tickets, call (202) 332-3300, or visit their website at studiotheatre.org.

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