Richard Schechner, notable avant-gardist of the Vietnam War years, recently opened "Yokastas Redux," an intriguing riff on Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex," with Jocasta (here spelled Yokasta) serving as the reflecting center of a work that can move from bawdy farce to moody pathos with the flip of a light switch. In 1969, Schechner's Performance Group made its debut with an innovative, highly praised version of "The Bacchae." Now, with a new company called East Coast Artists, he has directed an "Oedipus Rex" reconstructed from a woman's point of view.
This play -- by Saviana Stanescu, with Schechner as co-author, director, and set designer -- turns Yokasta into the protagonist. She is played by four actresses, each representing her at a different age: Jennifer Lim, Rachel Bowditch, Phyllis Johnson, and the wonderfully tall and austere Daphne Gaines, her crown-shaped hair swept up and back as the Sophoclean Yokasta. But Sophocles tells us nothing of Yokasta's pre-queen past or personality, which opens the door for authorial invention. The result is satire with a serious edge.
The action stretches from Thebes to America, starting with a television interview in which a male host (Christopher Logan Healy, who also plays Laius and Oedipus) asks Yokasta how she found out about the infamous prophecy regarding Oedipus. Yokasta eagerly discloses that Zeus wrote her a letter and, on request, she reads his raunchy message: "Yokasta, sweetheart, you will abandon your infant the night he is born. But I will send him back to you, and you will f*ck him." The letter continues hilariously. Every one of the scenes in this full-length play has its own surprises.
Favorite line: "Why can't an oracle be wrong?" Favorite prop: a super-large, foam-rubber toe worn by Oedipus on his swollen left foot. (Some characters claim the toe talks to them.)
This is a wonderful production of a wonderfully weird play.