Until June 1, 2008, the Dublin based Pan Pan Theatre company will perform Oedipus Loves You at PS122. According to Wikipedia, “a call of pan-pan means there is an emergency on board a boat, ship, aircraft or other vehicle but that, for the time being at least, there is no immediate danger to any one’s life or to the vessel itself. This is referred to as a state of urgency”. Whether or not Aedin Cosgrove and Gavin Quinn were thinking of this definition when they founded Pan Pan in 1991, Oedipus Loves You successfully breathes urgency and immediateness into the familiar story of Oedipus.
Pan Pan’s production follows the traditional form of Greek tragedy: events take place over the arc of a day, all violence happens off stage, characters sometimes wear masks and, most importantly, there is music and dancing. While the plot follows that of Oedipus (by Seneca) and Oedipus Rex (by Sophocles), there is nothing traditionally classical about the characters in Oedipus Loves You. Tiresias, the blind prophet played by Ned Dennehy (who also plays a naked sphinx on platforms for the opening scene of the play), is a retired rock star who wants to play percussion in Antigone’s and Creon’s indie-rock band called “Gordon Is A Mime”. Antigone, smartly played by Aoife Duffin, is a melancholic teenager divided between her love for her family and the deep desire to be left-the-fuck-alone. Uncle Creon (Dylan Tighe) sniffs coke and can hardly contain his own incestuous impulses towards Antigone. Jocasta (Gina Moxley) does not mind the plague at all- in fact, it makes her sleep better. And Oedipus…well, Oedipus can’t even cook meat right for the family barbecue. Played by Bush Moukarzel, Pan Pan’s Oedipus can hardly contain his own self-pity after he gushes his eyes out. In one of the highlights of the performance, his button down shirt completely drenched in blood, Oedipus remembers the lyrics of his own favorite childhood song: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird. He actually breaks down and cries after singing a few of the first verses.
Playing off of Freud’s writings as well as on contemporary notions of postdramatic theater, Pan Pan’s Oedipus Loves You brings wit and a healthy amount of distance to the theatrical Oedipal “super-plot”. The production is defined by a subtle dark humor that allows for the heavy tragic elements of the plot to exist in tandem with the lightness of irony and detachment. The production is also interesting in terms of set, light and sound design, all of which support the notion of a theater conscious of its theatricality yet fully entertaining, (a)live, and aware of its audience. If you have not seen it yet, don’t miss it!