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Thousands of Years—Rome Flashpoint – Mead Theatre Lab

Remaining performances: July 24, 9:30 p.m.; July 25, 6 p.m.; July 26, 1 p.m.; July 27, 12 p.m.

They say: “Thousands of Years—Rome takes a Roman Legionnaire and a Senator’s daughter from their 1st Century parting in the Roman Forum to their 21st Century reunion there. They participate in the Roman conquests of Britain and Spain, the Renaissance, Unification of Italy, Nazi occupation of Rome, and the Iraq war.”

Ted’s take: Like the rape of the Sabine women or the reign of the Emperor Otho, this is an hour and change that I will never, ever get back. The accompanying wherefore, however, is hard to peg. Calling the play historical romance is an insult to that already debased epithet; calling the whole thing a vacuous cliché would be an insult to vacuums.

Take Dead Again, mix it with a little Forrest Gump and a touch of Quo Vadis, then toss in the “never let go” moment from Titanic, and you’ll have a good sense for this piece. Spanning twenty centuries (and making each look at its watch and squirm), Thousands of Years traces the ill-starred love of Octavia and Marius (or, after 800 A.D., Mario) through various pitfalls and entanglements including but not limited to:

  • war
  • sickness
  • poverty
  • bad luck
  • “Daddy don’t approve”

and, last but not least,

  • a toothsome, barely-clad Boadicea, to whose military superiority, leather undergarments, and general sexiness Marius eventually responds by making lotsa whoopee…

…thus spawning future hordes of Marii for the reenactment ad nauseum of said pitfalls and entanglements. The acting is difficult to watch, not merely because of the technical glitches in a technically spare show (before every gunshot scene, the audience hears whisper-shouts of “Two shots or three?” “It’s three.” “Three gunshots?” “Yes, three.” “Okay! Three gunshots”…and then the effect),* or even because the term doesn’t necessarily apply—it’s difficult to watch because one likes and feels for the actors nearly immediately, as one never can for the characters in whose service they toil.

The Washington Post, in its rather mindless promotion of this piece, exhorts readers: “When in Rome, Love as Romans Do, Over Again.” The proper epithet for my money? “Sic transit gloria…over and over again.”

See it if: You’ve always wondered why “bodacious” means what it means.

Skip it if: You believe, as I do, that reading a facing-page translation of Livy might provide a more titillating, better staged, and adequately lit experience.

*It bears acknowledging that the reviewer saw the show on opening night, and that these glitches may well right themselves in successive performances.