The Column Online



by Curiatius Maternus

MBS Productions

Director: Mark-Brian Sonna
Choreography: Mark-Brian Sonna
Asst. Director: Dylan Peck
Stage Manager: Dylan Peck
Costume Design: Larry E Groseclose
Sound and Make-up: Mark-Brian Sonna
Set and Lighting: Alejandro de la Costa
Box Office Managers: Kim & Cory Wickware


Octavia: Michelle Mays
Nurse: Anne Taylor
Chorus: Megan Duelm
Poppea: Katherine Reynolds
Agrippina: Sherri Small
Seneca: Michael Rathbun
Nero: Blake Owen
Messenger: Rey Torres

Reviewed Performance: 10/27/2011

Reviewed by Shelley Kaehr, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

I've seen many shows I like at MBS Productions but none so much as this latest, Octavia, which was written way back in or around the year 90AD.

The story is based on true events surrounding the rise of the Roman Emperor Nero and his wife Octavia. Although the writing credits Curiatius Maternus with penning this masterpiece, nobody knows for sure if he wrote it or not. The play was banned in Rome for the blasphemous depictions of the tyrannical Roman government.

The story began when Octavia, brilliantly portrayed here by Michelle Mays, lamented the recent death of her brother Britannicus and Nero's mother, Agrippina, played by Sherri Small.

Octavia's husband had lost all favor with her and she felt alone and betrayed, and shared her concerns with her nurse portrayed by Anne Taylor. Taylor provided a sturdy support system to poor Octavia, who passionately bemoaned her fate. She knew if she did not soon produce an heir she too could face death.

Throughout the play, and with brilliant choreography, the ghost of Agrippina swam forth from the ocean and floated into scenes, tormenting the living from beyond the grave. I absolutely loved these scenes and the makeup design on Agrippina was stunning! She was covered in blue with deep veins all over her body and Small played the part of the ghoul with great mastery.

Small was lifted in the air by creatures that followed her from the bowels of hell. She appeared to float above the other actors on stage and at times swooped sideways, reaching out her unearthly hands to touch and damn those who sent her to an early grave. Awesome job on all of these scenes! I absolutely loved it!

But still, the youthful Nero, powerfully portrayed by Blake Owen, was set in his ways. He was not yet the cruel dictator he would ultimately become but his ego was expanded such that he no longer desired his wife, and had taken up with a lady of the evening, Poppea, played by Katherine Reynolds. Reynolds did a great job of initially playing the victim then damning Octavia to her final fate as the new lady in Nero's life in the second part of the play.

Nero took council from Seneca, played by Michael Rathbun. I'd seen Michael in several other shows. He did a super job here as the wise sage but even Seneca's good advice and sound judgment could not stop Nero from enacting his evil upon his wife and family.

Megan Duelm as the chorus and Rey Torres as the messenger provided sounding boards and background information to bring the audience up to speed with the public outcry concerning Nero's power trip.

The music before the show and the sounds of the undead were amazing. In one scene, the chorus became the ocean, depicted by a piece of blue velvet, which swallowed up the already dead Agrippina. Director Mark-Brian Sonna and Assistant Director Dylan Peck did a truly amazing job.

Kudos also goes to costume designer Larry E Groseclose. I paid close attention to the details here. Cast members were attired in plain Romanesque gowns with cloth draped over them. The sandals were a nice touch too. I felt like we were in the period and right in the middle of the uprising.

There was much here to digest in terms of content, understanding where all this fit in the context of Roman history. I found the show absolutely fascinating and reminiscent of a Shakespeare piece. King Lear and Macbeth came easily to mind. I could not help but believe Sonna really started something with this show. This needed to be seen in New York and around the world!

Mark-Brian Sonna has once again proven he is not only a risk taker, but a true pioneer in theater. Congratulations to all at MBS for a true success!

I hope all you theater goers out there will consider seeing this show while you still can. I promise one day you'll be paying the big bucks on Broadway, wishing you saw it like I did ? in it's infancy, and with such a super cast and crew right here in our own back yard.

MBS Productions
Stone Cottage Theater, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX, 75001
Plays through November 5th

Thursdays Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sunday matinees at 2:00pm
Special Halloween show Monday, October 31st at 8:00pm.
Tickets for shows range from $18 to $24

Monday October 31 ?Special Halloween Show you receive a free
goodie bag with yummies and gifts with your ticket purchase $24

KERA member may purchase 2 for the price of 1 ticket by calling 214-477-4942.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 214-477-4942, or at the theatre box office 30 minutes before curtain time.