WintersTaleThe annual Shakespeare on the Lawn (represented here by last year’s production of  WINTER’S TALE) returns to Brookdale Community College this Thursday with the tragical history tour that is TITUS ANDRONICUS.

Titus-Poster-1Presented to audiences in such plein-air settings as the original Globe Theatre, the works of William Shakespeare have always carried echoes of nature’s gleeful chaos, even under the most climate-controlled of conditions. And every year at about this time, an army of thespians takes to the patios, parks, lawns and beaches of this land to bellow the Bard’s iambic pentameter beneath the setting sun and stars.

It’s a tradition that has a long track record in the annual Summer Shakespeare Ensemble productions at Brookdale Community College, now in their 14th season.

BCC faculty member and drama director John Bukovec – who’s earned his cred as a Shakespearean warrior by “performing Macbeth outdoors in August, in a heavy kilt and fur boots”– has steered the series from its earliest frolics with such lighter fare as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor, through ever deeper explorations into the dark heart of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies and histories.

Thus does the series resume on Thursday evening, July 9 with one of the most unrelentingly gruesome (and relatively little-seen) items in the master’s fab folio– The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus.

Set in the aftermath of a protracted conflict between the fading Roman Empire and the Goths (“peacetime” never looked so grim), the tale of escalating vengeance and eye-for-an-eye diplomacy centers around fictional general Titus (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in a largely overlooked 1999 movie by that name) — and includes such plot points as violent rape, multiple filicides, cannibalism, live burials, and the cutting off of assorted heads, hands and tongues. Bring a picnic-basket meal, by the way, along with those beach chairs and blankets.

As Bukovec observes, “this play is not for the squeamish… Titus is an adrenaline-charged play, depicting people behaving badly who are willing to do anything to satisfy their own wants, needs and desires. It is a brutal, unflinching look at what we are willing to do for family, and why.”

A cast of over 20 BCC students and alumni from all over Monmouth County bring the corrosive culture and collapsing empire of Titus Andronicus to life for eight performances between July 9 and 19; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm, plus Sundays at 6 pm. Parking in Lot 2 on the Lincroft campus is recommended, and in case of tempest the action moves indoors to the nearby Performing Arts Center building. Admission is free of charge, an additional info can be had by calling the PAC box office at (732)224-2411.