I love to read plays and don’t have as many opportunities to do so since the Fireside Theatre Book Club went out of business (when was that…the 1990’s?). There seems to slowly be a revival of getting plays in print for the general reading audience.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with Sam Shepard’s work, that he’d be drawn to the Oedipus story. Shepard has written for years about families and family dynamics and Oedipus is the original story of a dysfunctional family. But when I read or hear about a story/play/film that is a re-telling of a classic, I can’t help but wonder: Why? What is missing from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex that we need to re-tell it? Is it just that our modern audience can’t relate to it? We can’t identify with oracles and … well, I’m no sure what other parts would be so foreign to a modern audience. But, well, Shepard wants to try this and we’ll go along.
But A Particle of Dread is best defined by the sub-title: Oedipus Variations. This play has a very random feel about it. Short, segmented scenes are assembled to try to fill a narrative. It’s a bit jumbled or disjointed but generally works okay. There are some humorous scenes which feel very out-of-place for me. Perhaps this is what a modern audience needs? A chance to laugh among the pathos?
Even after reading through this, I ask myself: Why? What was the point here? Shepard took a classic story, chopped it up, set it in the present, added some humor, and tossed it back together. It’s less coherent than the classic, which in my mind makes it less relevant instead of more-so.
If this were written by anyone other than Sam Shepard would it ever have been staged and published?
I’m glad to have read this, but if by some odd bit of coincidence any theatre near me were to stage it (including the Guthrie) I would not likely run out to get a ticket.
Looking for a good book? Sam Shepard’s script, A Particle of Dread, is a retelling of the Oedipus story, but turns out to be less relevant to modern audiences than a good translation of the original.
I received a digital copy of this script from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations)
author: Sam Shepard
paperback, 128 pages