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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, February 24

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Theatre Mon Jan 25 2010

Review: The Castle at Oracle Theatre

Howard Barker: Mission accomplished.

In my preview piece of this very production, I described Howard Barker's Theatre of Catastrophe as "rarely elicit[ing] the same response from any one audience member, creating a chaotic environment that is rife with dialogue." While a tad slipshod and borderline incoherent at times (keep in mind I saw a preview), Oracle Theatre's production of Barker's The Castle revels in its chaos, doing the audience no favors as they shriek and cackle their way through one of the most exciting shows I've seen this season. Mission accomplished, indeed.

Check out my preview piece for a plot synopsis, though it likely won't do much for you. There is a story here, but the strength of Oracle's production lies in the palpable sense of chaos created by this top-notch ensemble. Characters come and go, lingering on the sidelines as they play with the lights and interact with the audience, acknowledging every artifice with a grin as the most tragic of events play out in their midst. Interludes become frightening as the clatter and bang of the castle's builders echo clamorously from every corner of Oracle's tiny black box space. It's an unstable world that is enlivened further by the dedication of the performers, all of whom are occupying the same delirious universe.

David Steiger's portrayal of engineer Krak is an obvious standout. His grasp of Barker's twisted poetry is impressive and assured, and he delivers each passionate speech with ecclesiastical fervor. Steiger's astuteness is offset by Jason Rice's sloppy, but oddly mesmerizing performance as "honorable" knight Stucley. Alternating between the winky smarm of a stand-up and the hissing bile of your worst nightmare, Rice's Stucley struts his way through dialogue that is as oppressively sacrilegious as it is casually racist. Both vicious and pathetic, his character becomes a walking contradiction whose superficiality makes him all the more complex. It's worth noting, I think, that a character like this could not exist were the rest of the ensemble not as adept at creating such a universe. The only weak link was Rachel Boller's Ann. Delivering a performance that felt torn between Barker's brutal candyland and the "real" world, Boller never felt on the same page as the rest of the cast.

There's a fine line between controlled chaos and chaotic chaos, and during previews directors Ben Fuchsen and Justin Warren were still finding that line. But Oracle's production of The Castle feels dangerous. And that's exciting. There's almost too much to say about it. Which is exactly why I'm waiting a week or two and seeing it again.

I'm sure Barker would call that a mission accomplished.

The Castle runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm through March 6. Oracle Theatre is located at 3809 N. Broadway and admission is a $10 donation at the door.

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Tori / February 3, 2010 12:21 PM

Produced by Oracle Theatre

The production of The Castle, produced by Oracle theatre and written by Howard Barker feels like an odd, obscured take off of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Complete with shadow puppets, The Castle tells the story of a community destroyed by their own social progress. After returning from battle, the fearless army finds their once obedient wives and workers to have formed a new branch of social hierarchy with in the town. Adamant that life should be restored to how it was before the war; the knight takes charge of heading the building of a new castle! Chaos inevitably ensues. The Word of the Bible is turned upside down, women jump to their death from mountaintops and dead corpses are tied to disorderly witches. Give yourself time to settle into the style of the humor and you’ll soon be laughing along with the rest of the cast as they take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Expect boundaries to be broken and comfort zones to be crossed but don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself as this play breaks down many of our own taboo doors.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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