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Titus Andronicus at TheatreWorks

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The faint of heart (and Shakespeare purists) should know on the front end they will witness atrocities. Characters in Titus Andronicus are gutted. Their throats are slit, and the blood is caught in buckets. Heads are severed and held up for all to see. Hands are severed from wrists, and grown men are paraded around the theater in their Skivvies. And, of course, there's the human sacrifice, the cannibalism, and all that newly written text.

New Moon established itself as the independent theater company that loves Halloween by producing a slate of deliriously dark plays like Look Away (a Civil War zombie drama), The Woman in Black, and Tracy Letts' deeply unsettling Bug. The ambitious players bolstered their reputation for excellence (and for going places other companies won't) by staging infrequently produced works by William Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's gore-spattered tragedy of war and revenge, is the perfect marriage of these two worlds. Some might even say that the company has upped Titus' gruesome levels by doing to Shakespeare's script what Friday the 13th's Jason does to fornicating teenagers at Crystal Lake.

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New Moon's take on Titus is decidedly conceptual. It begins with an imagined plane crash, and the audience is welcomed to Hell with a monologue Shakespeare didn't write. All of the players onstage are dead, we're told, and this performance functions as a kind of "welcome to the afterlife" for sinners. For purists, the threat of never-ending torment may be actual, since new, deliberately spooky narration has been inserted between scenes, lest audiences forget the Halloween conceit or lose their way in a story full of twists and turns.

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