Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Before advancing too far into this review and running the risk of activating an attention deficit disorder, let it be unequivocally stated: if you have not yet seen TITUS ANDRONICUS at California Shakespeare, go immediately.

Get off the hospital gurney; postpone elective liposuction; depart the assignation; stop work on the full torso tattoo: this production of TITUS ANDRONICUS will undoubtedly be ranked as the best piece of Shakespeare performed anywhere this summer.

To say it is a tour de force by James Carpenter and company is a pusillanimous understatement.

Director Joel Sass has chiseled the Elizabethan English of this apocryphal Shakespearean tragedy into a high intensity crystalline vengeance piece that makes the DIE HARD series look like Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

James Carpenter has never failed to dazzle; yet as Titus he has exceeded even himself.

Be warned, this play was kept off Victorian stages because of its graphic gore and violence: dismemberment, decapitations, throat hemorrhages induced by fine edged cutlery, cannibalism, rape, lingual extraction and some swearing are amongst the active ingredients.

All of which might be mild stuff for those who play video games, but it could prove hard core for the other half of the audience.

The play is set in fourth century Rome: when the Goths and the Visigoths were routinely kicking Roman butt: civility, integrity and honor were well out of vogue and everyone was in the survival mode: scrambling to get the last of piece of Romanna pie.

For those who believe the dire auguries of the Wall Street Journal, TITUS invokes some trepidation: will post-imperial America, servicing a $20 trillion debt, with a defunct public sector, second amendment guarantees, a landscape littered with deteriorated infrastructure and bereft of pacifying transfer payments, fare any better than a crumbling Rome?

TITUS ANDRONICUS is scary because it depicts a declining civilization with no system of justice, with no cap on inhumanity and no safety net to stop the free fall into MAD MAX barbarism.

Presaging aside, TITUS ANDRONICUS is riveting entertainment not to be missed.

For tickets call 510-548-9666 or go to boxoffice@calshakes.org.