Titus Andronicus was (most scholars agree) William Shakespeare's first produced tragedy. It remains one of his least performed, although quite popular in his own day. All that over the top murder, torture and mayhem--it was the torture porn of Elizabethan London.
Andronicus at ZJU takes this work and (like several other folks in recent years) plays it as a comedy in one way or another. In this case, they simply did it as a comedy. By assuming we the audience are supposed to laugh, director Rose Bochner allowed/coached her cast into playing it all as a dark farce. A very, very dark farce. Honestly there are moments it doesn't quite work--efforts to make Lavinia's (Annamaire Kasper) rape and mutilation are not quite successful.
But the rest of it pretty much works like a charm. Especially Aaron (Timothy P. Brown) who hits the bullseye when it come to the tone and attitude--having a glorious time playing the villainest of all villains, not taking any it too seriously and aware this is a show, even winking at the audience about the convoluted plot.
Generally though the whole cast does a fine job, playing their characters over the top to the point of being bizarre: Emperor Saturninus (Ian Heath) as some vaguely disgusting perv more in love with his own nipples than with either power of his Goth Queen Tamora (Leila Symington), Titus (Jack de Sanz) as a general with more than a few anger issues and frankly not having far to go to arrive at barking mad, his son Lucius (Chase Mullins) as a surfer dude--why not? Having Tamora's twin sons Demetrius and Chiron (Chris Kappel) played by the same actor with a hand puppet seems almost normal. Well, in this world anyway.
The rest of the cast--Bobby Coyne, Major Curda, Carlos Chavez--likewise fall into the whole farcical nightmare of the show with enthusiasm and skill. As a result, we laugh. We laugh at things which aren't supposed to be funny. Like cannibalism. Except it is funny!
Nothing more clearly marks a successful comedy that that!
Andronicus plays Mondays at 9pm until June 26, 2017 at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd (north of Camarillo), North Hollywood CA 91601.