True Life: I Seek Revenge

Picture this: Kim Kardashian appears on TV speaking Shakespearian. Ridiculous, right? Yet it probably wouldn’t do much to the very basic plotline of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” If anything, maybe you’d relate to the old bard a bit more. At least, that’s what director of this week’s Potiker Theatre headliner Christopher Ashley thinks.

For his newest creation, he decided to place his version of “The Revenger’s Tragedy” — a Jacobian play by Thomas Middleton — in the context of reality television. Maybe it seems implausible that the 400-year-old piece could be translated into a decade-old medium, but turns out the Italian court — with all its backstabbing and power play — is perfectly suited to reality television’s heightened egos and risqué affairs. Think of the engrossing “Tragedy” as The Real World: Bard Basics.

And it’s just as addicting as the real thing.

Vindice is out to avenge the death of his fiance, who was murdered by the Duke when she denied his advances. With the help of his brother, Hippolito, Vindice infiltrates the Duke’s palace in disguise and begins wreaking havoc among the royals. Adultery and murder run rampant, and Vindice is determined to bring the bloodline down, at any cost. Though the story reads as little more than a creative mash-up of Shakespearian characters and themes, it functions flawlessly in this production. With a familiar plotline, modern setting and language that rolls right off the actors’ tongues, the play is digestible for all.

While each character ties the ensemble together, the cast standout is third-year masters of fine arts student Ross Crain, who captures both the comedy and repellant ego of modern celebrities in his role as Lussurioso, the Duke’s son.

But the real accolades go to the designers of “Tragedy” which, like the cast, is made up entirely of UCSD students. Seven digital video cameras are employed onset, in addition to those the television crew carries onstage. The footage from these cameras is displayed in real time on four set televisions and two scrim projections, allowing the audience to see the production of the play and consume it as a reality show. The camerawork is masterfully planned and executed, and the marriage between film and theater alone makes this play a must-see.

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