A Fine 'Mess' No Name Players Troupe Puts Contemporary Twist on Five Oedipus Plays Rolled into One

By Eberson, Sharon | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Fine 'Mess' No Name Players Troupe Puts Contemporary Twist on Five Oedipus Plays Rolled into One


Eberson, Sharon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Director Steven Wilson would have settled for "Oedipus the Trilogy" when he called playwright Sean Graney, but when he got five plays rolled into one, a snappy serial-style title was in order, something along the lines of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Director and writer kicked the idea around, and that's how "Oedipus and the Foul Mess in Thebes" got its name.

The world premiere by No Name Players that opens Friday is a hybrid of five Greek tragedies with doses of humor, music and universal themes in contemporary times, as adapted by Mr. Graney. The new play represents Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex," "Oedipus in Colonus" and "Antigone"; Aeschylus' "The Seven Against Thebes"; and Euripides' "The Phoenician Women."

Mr. Wilson, a Point Park graduate (class of '96) after Seton La- Salle and Montour high schools, began his acting career at 11 in a Pittsburgh Playhouse summer production of "Once Upon a Playground." After 15 years acting, directing and teaching theater in Chicago, he is in the third year of pursuing an M.F.A. in directing at the University of Texas, Austin. As a company member of the The Hypocrites, founded by Mr. Graney, he performed the title role in "Oedipus" in 2009. He returned to Pittsburgh last year to direct "Orange Flower Water" for No Name, and forged a collaboration with producing director Don DiGiulio.

"I was born and raised here and I had my first time on stage at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. ... It's great to be back home in my hometown and to bring something like this here, and to be taking a chance on a new play here, that's incredible," Mr. Wilson said.

While Mr. Wilson has been finding a niche as a director, Mr. Graney has been adapting 32 Greek tragedies into the epic, three- day theater event "All Our Tragic" as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. The 32 is on the heels of Mr. Graney's well-received adaptation of Sophocles' plays, "These Seven Sicknesses," which was well-received at the off- Broadway Flea Theater. The New York Times called it "vibrant ... entertaining and fresh" and The New Yorker gushed, "A night at the theater that leaves the viewer with a rich tapestry of experiences."

Mr. Wilson and his wife, LiveWire Chicago Theatre's Erin Barlow, last summer participated in readings of Mr. Graney's "All Our Tragic," which shares DNA with "Seven Sicknesses" and "Oedipus and the Foul Mess in Thebes."

"He's attempting to bring it all back into a now-ness. So there is a definite homage to Greek and poetry, but there's a huge amount of modern touches and, surprising for people, a lot of humor. …

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