THEATER REVIEW: Ira Aldridge Players present “The Gospel At Colonus”

The tragic story of Oedipus – who in fulfilling prophecy brought death and sorrow to his family when he unknowingly killed his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta – provides great fodder for Lee Breuer’s “The Gospel At Colonus.”

The Ira Aldridge Players present the gospel cantata through Nov. 4 at the Educational Cultural Complex, directed by the theater’s founder and artistic director, Calvin Manson.

Based on Sophocles’ classic play, “The Gospel At Colonus” begins after the ghastly events have taken place: the murder, the incestuous marriage and the four children. Jocasta, on learning the truth, has hanged herself. Her brother Creon has become king of Thebes and has sent Oedipus into exile, accompanied by his eldest daughter Antigone.

We meet Oedipus and Antigone years into the exile. Oedipus is an old man now, blind by his own hand, repentant and completely dependent on others for survival. He has chosen the sacred grove at Colonus to die; all he needs is permission.

Composer Bob Telson’s music offers a varied set of songs tailored to the story. The cast of 29 (including Eddie Baltril & the United Gospel Artists of San Diego choir) and four musicians take us through foot-stompers and poignant ballads, doo-wop sounds and hymns.

It’s difficult to tell the players even with a program, because several actors “represent” other characters than they play from time to time and it’s a bit confusing. My advice is to forget who’s who (you’ll figure out Oedipus – even though there are two – and Antigone soon enough) and just enjoy the spectacle of the ladies in bright jewel-tone dresses, the three different quartets, the good choir and the fine backup band.

ECC is a nice space, but the acoustics aren’t the best. Manson needs to set sound levels – especially at the beginning of the show – and the cast needs to work extra hard at diction in order to get the words across.

Incest, death, sorrow and redemption: That’s a pretty heavy topic list for a night out. But Manson’s troops make it worth watching.

The details

“The Gospel at Colonus,” presented by Ira Aldridge Players, plays through Nov. 4 at Educational Cultural Complex, 4343 Ocean View Blvd.

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.

For tickets, call 619-283-4574 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.