But Titus Andronicus, opening tonight, is about much more than blood.
Its a brutal play, said Brian Hatcher, whos playing the title role. It is well known as Shakespeares bloodiest play, but its a very beautiful play. I think its really important.
With all the apathy and the things that are happening in our society just open your newspaper or open your blog this is vital, said director Pug Bujeaud. Titus is not that extreme when you look at the world around us, and people need to remember.
Titus includes not only cannibalism, but also rape and murder. Primarily, though, its about revenge.
The revenge tragedy was very popular when Shakespeare wrote this, Bujeaud said. And they are all over the place right now. We have Breaking Bad (on TVs AMC) and we have Spartacus (on TVs Starz). You can look at the news. We have revenge tragedy in this culture, too.
Given that, its not surprising that she decided to relocate the play to the modern era specifically, to the motorcycle gangs of the 1970s. The most tribal society thats still around in America today is gangs, she said.
Why not the gangs of today?
Cell phones have changed everything, she said. Were all in each others back pockets.
Theres a scene where Lavinia has to give out a piece of information. Shes had her hands cut off, and they end up using a stick and writing the name in the dirt. If she had a computer in front of her, she would be able to put a pencil in her mouth and type it out.
In fact the communication of today might ruin any number of Shakespearean plots. Romeo would know what happened with Juliet on Facebook, Bujeaud said.
For Hatcher, the motorcycle-gang theme is oddly appropriate.
I love it, he said. I ride a motorcycle, so its very easy for me. I thought: Hey, Im a biker. I can do that.
I drive my motorcycle up to the theater every day for rehearsal.
But thats far from the only attraction of the role of the Roman general turned gang leader.
Hes such an absolutely brilliant character, said Hatcher, who fell in love with the role when he saw Anthony Hopkins play it in the 1999 film Titus.
Hes such a hero and an anti-hero at the same time. Hes a noble gentleman and a crazed lunatic.
In all of his macho-ness and all of his toughness, he breaks. To watch this man succumb to this brutality and pain is beautiful.
Hatcher is no stranger to complex roles with a darker edge. Last year, he played the vicious stamp collector Sterling in Harlequin Productions Mauritius.
Maybe Im starting to get typecast, he joked. To just play evil is kind of easy. ... If you do your homework who is this person and why has this road led him to this juncture in his life? thats more interesting.
So much did he want this role that he ended up passing up the opportunity to play Claudius in Animal Fire Theatres Hamlet, playing through Aug. 5 in Priest Point Park.
It was a difficult decision choosing which Shakespearean villain to tackle and it was made even more difficult by the fact that Hatchers husband, Scott Douglas, is playing Polonius in Hamlet.
Both of those roles are fantastic, he said. I had to decide which one do I really want. That was Titus.