Craig Wright's "Blind" spells bad news for a modern age in desperate need of heroes.


Craig Wright’s “Blind” spells bad news for a modern age in desperate need of heroes. In his deconstruction of “Oedipus Rex,” scribe becomes a fly on the wall in the palace bedchamber of a quasi-contemporary kingdom, observing the king’s reaction to the damning revelation that he has unknowingly killed his father and married his own mother. Robbed of the heroic stature Sophocles gave them to shoulder their guilt and accept the responsibilities of their actions, Wright’s royal couple sink into denial, flinging recriminations at one another and cravenly leaving their kingdom to rot. And where does that leave us?

Despite the hectoring tone of this shrill piece, it’s hard to know what Wright (“Dirty Sexy Money”) wants us to take away from his play. Revulsion at the selfishness of royal figures? Pity for a man and woman robbed of their innocence? Anger at civic leaders who desert their subjects in a crisis?

Sophocles wrote a message play and the message was harsh but clear: in a fatalistic society, man has no choice but to act according to the cycles of nature, achieving heroism only by accepting and rising above his pre-determined role in this cruel universe.

Wright’s message is anyone’s guess, unless it’s that everyone behaves selfishly in the bedroom.

That bedroom, by the way, is handsomely realized in Takeshi Kata’s elaborate set design of rich fabrics and regal colors — a shockingly stylish piece of stagecraft for the normally scruffy Rattlestick.For that matter, even the play’s heightened language — not classical, but so carefully grammatical as to sound a bit foreign to modern ears — seems out of place in a house normally given to rougher accents and thicker tongues.

Despite being obliged to go from total nakedness to a drab wrap-dress, Veanne Cox (“Caroline, or Change”) presents herself as a regal Jocasta, ferociously determined to hang onto what’s hers, even as plagues and pestilence stalk the land. More insightful than Sophocles conceived of her, she is also far less admirable, fiercely demanding that her son-and-husband ignore his duty, deny their unnatural alliance, and enforce his will — her will — on their blighted kingdom.

Seth Numrich has a much harder time of it as Oedipus, stripped of his nobility and reduced to an immature youth. In full retreat from Sophocles’ portrayal of him as an excessively kind and conscientious ruler who takes full responsibility for crimes committed in blind ignorance, Wright’s much diminished hero responds to the collapse of his kingdom with petulant tantrums.

Under Lucie Tiberghien’s helming, the performances have a strong athletic component. More mother and son than husband and wife in their verbal skirmishes, Oedipus and Jocasta address their identity confusion in sexual encounters that leave them both bloody — but not cleansed.

And not much enlightened, either, since neither one of them spares much thought for their subjects, wracked by disease and starving to death beyond the palace walls. Which leaves the rest of us wondering what we’re supposed to take away from this fruitless exercise.

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Rattlestick Theater; 97 seats; $45 top

  • Production: A Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presentation of a play in one act by Craig Wright. Directed by Lucie Tiberghien.
  • Crew: Set, Takeshi Kata; costumes, Anne Kennedy; lighting, Matt Richards; sound, Ryan Rumery; production stage manager, Melissa Mae Gregus. Opened Feb. 25, 2010. Reviewed Feb. 24. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.
  • Cast: Jocasta - Veanne Cox Oedipus - Seth Numrich Maid - Danielle Slavick
  • Music By: