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In the production “The Comedy of Oedipus,” the audience will be taken back to ancient Egypt, where Egyptian Thebans are being tormented by an old problem — the Sphinx is eating people.
Oedipus promises that, if he is made king, he will solve this problem and more, giving Egyptians technology and modernity beyond anything they have ever imagined.
Director Jennifer Kokai said this show has been on her “bucket list” for quite a while.
“This is a show I read about 12 years ago. It’s a play about government and what the government can do for you and can’t do for you,” she said. “This year is an election year in the U.S. and also with the Arab Spring, a big time in Egypt when they’re moving toward a democracy. We’ve been discussing things like ‘What can a president do or not do? What do we need to do as a community and not just look to a leader for?’ But also, in Egypt, they’re just trying to figure out how to have an election. So our problems with democracy are very different than theirs, but it’s a year of thinking about democracy, so I thought it was a good time for the play.”
The name of the production might seem familiar to many, but those expecting to see the Greek tragedy of Oedipus will be in for a surprise. The production is one that raises questions about politics and what the “beasts” are in modern, day-to-day life. But it is done in a contemporary way and involves all of the aspects of technology so many people use every day.
“I think this is a pretty complicated play,” Kokai said. “One of the problems we keep running into is that people think it’s ‘Oedipus Rex,’ the Greek tragedy, and we’re like, ‘No, it’s really not.’ People have ideas about what it’s going to be, and it’s something completely different. It’s a play that asks more questions than it answers, which can be frustrating. So we just want to make sure that the audience understands that we’re raising questions. You’re supposed to leave being like, ‘OK, so what does the beast represent for me?’”
Behind the scenes, a number of people are involved with the show, including many Weber State University students and alumni. Austin Hull created an epic space in the small Eccles Theater with his set design. Graduating senior Kelsey Nichols designed all the costumes for the production. Her creations combine the feel of Egyptian designs with steam-punk sensibility.
The premiere production of “The Comedy of Oeidipus,” written by Egyptian playwright Ali Salim, will run March 22-23, 26-30 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 30. Tickets can be purchased through the Browning Center’s box office.