When Shakespeare proposed that music is the food of love, he very likely didn’t have punk rock in mind. But if the food of love involves a mincemeat pie stuffed with two murderous princes and fed to their oblivious mother, then perhaps some ganglia-jangling tunes are occasioned. Take that fife and hautbois! In Titus X: The Musical writer-composer Shawn Northrip has adapted Shakespeare’s most gruesome tragedy into a riot of three-chord progressions and Doc Marten–stomping bops. If some Elizabethan lyric is lost, Northrip has supplied a fair complement of visceral lines in its place. “Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy/That nice-preserved honesty of yours” gives way to “Lavinia/I wanna get in ya.”
Northrip has doubtless written many other engaging rhymes (we did pick out “I’ve come to cut your throat/And catch your blood in a gravy boat”), but most of the performers have a hard time making themselves heard and understood over the noise of the band and the vocal demands of the songs. (Peter Schuyler in the title role is a notable exception.) Had we not taken grateful advantage of the large jar of earplugs perched on the ticketing table, we might have heard more. But at what headache-making cost? The production’s vigor was contagious, but it came as something of a relief when the rest was silence.