Titus Andronicus

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 7 2012

Impact Artistic Director Melissa Hillman is known for putting her own stamp on Shakespeare. In the past three years alone she's tried an Eighties high-school-movie version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a Russian mafia-inspired Romeo and Juliet. She's even set Twelfth Night in Ilyria Studios, turning all the aristocrats into washed-up Hollywood stars. So it was somewhat of a surprise to see her lean, unsullied version of Titus Andronicus, which, but for a few script changes and sparing use of video, remains remarkably faithful to its source material. (Hillman says she cut some of the presentational language and changed the end so it would have a slightly different message about racism and Otherness.) A lot of that may owe to the original version being so overwrought, anyway -- it was essentially Shakespeare's version of a slasher film. And it's no less violent, here, though Hillman's shrewd direction and casting choices privilege language and motive over blood and gore. Mike Delaney and Reggie D. White both shine as Saturninus and Aaron, respectively, though the real standout is Anna Ishida, who plays vengeful queen Tamora. Through March 31 at LaVal's Subterranean Theatre (1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley), $12-$17.ImpactTheatre.

Rachel Swan

Price: $10-$20

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