Theatre Mirror Reviews - "rOMULUS"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey

When in Rome...

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

CNN or CBS, it matters not. If the networks want to analyze the war nowadays, they interview a slew of retired generals. BUT in the ‘60s (and early ‘70s) the pundits were philosophers and writers. Dick Cavett interviewed all the greats on his own version of “Nightline”…and that’s where you’d find Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer holding court. When a highly publicized feud kept them from appearing together, they appeared separately (to trash each other and the government).

Mailer suggested we end the war by sending our President and theirs to duke it out on a desert island. Vidal warned us against our return to the “manifest destiny” which led us to wars in the first place. So omnipresent was Vidal that LAUGH-IN’s zany operator, Lily Tomlin, kept trying to telephone him each week (“One ringy-dingy…”)

I, for one, miss the literary feuds, the dueling men of letters and most of all, I miss the political theater which sprang from opposition to the (Viet Nam) war. So what a delight to find Vidal’s irreverent ROMULUS up at the Theatre Cooperative in Somerville.

On the surface ROMULUS appears to be an absurd comedy about the fall of the Roman empire - but you soon realize it’s a scathing indictment of absolute power. What a time to revive a play that rails against our national belief in saving other cultures from themselves. Boy, does life imitate art: Only this past week did we hear that Iraq’s museums have been looted of their treasures. No sooner can you say “sold to the highest bidder” than Vidal’s Romulus unloads ancient busts to a wily art dealer.

Even if you didn’t search for political meaning in ROMULUS, the subject matter is pretty funny all by itself, with its bird-obsessed emperor spending time thinking up a slogan instead of preparing for the barbarians at the gate, who, by the way, turn out to be quite gracious as Goths go.

Nathaniel McIntyre gets wonderful, wry performances from the entire cast, especially from Jason Myatt for his madly sane emperor, Eve Passeltiner as the all powerful empress, Kim Anton as the slick art dealer, Rodney Raftery in two hilarious deadpan roles, Gerald Slattery as the precursor of “World Wide Pants” and Forrest Walter as a garrulous ghost.

To heck with Remus. ROMULUS is the guy to see.

"Romulus" (9 - 31 May)
Peabody House Theatre, 277 Broadway, SOMERVILLE
1(617) 625-1300

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