Nova Arts Project Gets Oedipal

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Amy Hopper and John Berno
Photo by Noe Mendoza III

Nova Arts Project goes by the motto “theater naptime is over.” Judging from the ingenuity, edgy creativity, and offbeat originality of Oedipus 3, the big snooze could well be over. For a theater company that professes to yell, scream, preach, and sing before resorting to realism, they may have found a match in Sophocles’ Oedipus Trilogy. Greek theater was ruled by a set of strict constraints. Nova Arts follows that lead by also imposing a set of rules. Plus, the Greeks are long gone, so why not have your way with these great plays.

Each play was assigned a different director to create their own 30-minute version. The same six actors appeared in each play with no actor playing the same role. The results quite were startlingly refreshing. Oedipus Rex, directed by Bernardo Cubria took place in a tight audience circle, which, at times, seemed to be part of the action. John Berno tuned in a captivating and highly physical performance as Oedipus. And, the boy can move. Amy Hopper, co-director of Nova Arts, played Jocasta with an understated charm. The ensemble delivered a clever and engaging performance with a kick-ass ending—Oedipus’ final eye act intensely witnessed by the audiences’ (formed in a circle around the action) stoic gaze.

The Gods are Big Poops Heads (a title to love for sure), directed by Nova Arts co-director Clinton Hopper, resembled an outtake of a Martha Graham film with those clownish gods dressed in flowing skirts. Sean Judge was suitable testy as the blind and belligerent Oedipus. Antigone, the most classic of the three, honored Sophocles’ dramatic language while playing a good bit with the narrative. Of course, Antigone was played by a man, Philip Hays, and with great conviction.

Although each play harked from a different director, they each contained a dynamic rhythm of emotional ping pong. One moment the audience was howling, the next moment, silent with thought. There was a sense of raw physicality to the whole production which kept the eyes and mind in motion. It’s too soon to say where this young company is going, but so far, they seem to be holding true to their promise of keeping the audience wide awake.

Next up at Nova Arts Project: A Fiddler’s Tale, Oct 12-14. www.novaartsproject.com

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