King Oedipus is a play in which the protagonist, attempts to find the cause of a sickness affecting the city of Thebes. The process through which Oedipus uncovers the details of the disease directly parallels the process used by the television show House M.D, in which Dr. House unravels complex mysteries surrounding a patient’s sickness. Dr. House’s method of uncovering information is extremely unorthodox–he threatens and manipulates anyone who can help him, often becoming obsessed with solving the medical puzzle. Oedipus follows in the same direction, becoming hell bent on finding the origin of the sickness, assaulting those who withhold information from him and dismissing anyone who opposes him. The mental and physical likeness of the two characters was instrumental in the decision of depicting Oedipus as Dr. House. Scripting was essential in making the theme of the rendition obvious to the audience, as it established the medical tone, aided each actor’s portrayal of his or her character and helped determine the look of the play.
The scripting of the play was used to mimic the tone of House M.D. The initial script served as a rough outline for the entire production and thus established the overall tone of the play. The first step was to locate any lines dealing with the issue of sickness and emphasise the scenes in which the cause of the sickness is discussed. As a result, the opening lines pertained to the sickness and helped establish the medical theme: “What is the meaning of these prayers for the healing of pain?” (Sophocles 25).
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It was also necessary to sustain the consistency of the medical references and eliminate irrelevant dialogue. To achieve this characters had to written out of the script. The first example of this is the Priest, who was replaced by Creon to create a scene of fast paced dialogue between Oedipus and Creon, again mimicking House M.D’s technique of discussing an illness. By selectively choosing lines, Oedipus’ egotistical nature became more apparent, thus making it more obvious to the audience that Oedipus was meant to be Dr.House. This process placed emphasis on lines spoken by Oedipus, as his self-proclaimed talent was an identifying mark of hubris–a tragic flaw that both Dr.House and Oedipus constantly display: “You have prayed; and your prayers shall be answered if you will obey me” (Sophocles 31); “I have saved this land from ruin. I am content.” (Sophocles 37); “No god will speak for me.” (Sophocles 68).
Dr.House, much like Oedipus, only displays true hubris during social conflict, when his real thoughts become apparent. uphold Oedipus’ arrogant attitude and maintain conflict, it was again necessary to drastically shorten the lines of miscellaneous characters, as they had little or no conflict with Oedipus. For Jocasta (Dr.Cuddy in House M.D), Oedipus’ wife, it was essential to eliminate much of the dialogue between her and Oedipus that was non-confrontational; the resulting scene between the two characters is much more edgy and engaging as Oedipus and Jocasta exchange remarks in a manner similar to those between Dr.House and Dr.Cuddy: “JOCASTA: For the love of God, believe it, Oedipus!/ OEDIPUS(angered): And why should I repent?” (Sophocles 43).
Jocasta’s limited role had another purpose: due to a lack of actors, Jocasta had to be played by an outside helper, thus it was easier for her to be written as an off-stage character. The conflict between the two of them helped to give Jocasta some dominance and masked the fact that she was physically missing. Lastly, the initial scripting included brackets to indicate how a certain line should be delivered, often to emphasise a certain aspect of House M.D. For example, Oedipus is indicated to say certain lines in a bitter voice, as would Dr.House: “OEDIPUS(bitter): And while you suffer, none suffers more than I!” (Sophocles 27).
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The initial scripting gave the group a rough outline of what was to be said, but even more important was the way the lines were to be delivered. Each actor had to find a way to portray his or her character that would give a clear resemblance to his or her House M.D counterpart. Of utmost importance was the tone and emotion used to deliver each line. Manish, who played Oedipus, had to use tone to twist the original meaning of lines, changing heartfelt or sympathetic statements into cruel and sarcastic taunts: “What is the matter? Something you fear? Something you desire?/ I would willingly do anything to help you” (Sophocles 25).
A sarcastic tone is characteristic of Dr.House and perfectly establishes Oedipus’ personality as sadistic. It also serves the purpose of establishing Oedipus as the dominant character as he makes other characters seem inferior while also entertaining the audience, building a bond between the audience and Oedipus. Manish also used a range of emotions in his delivery, as Oedipus’ choleric nature has him constantly yelling and threatening other characters. The quick temper exhibited showed a clear link to Dr. House, who often loses his temper when confronted: “OEDIPUS: Answer! If I must speak again, you die!” (Sophocles 57).
The temper also engaged the audience and helped maintain the conflict that was the backbone of the play. Jenny, who played the part of Jocasta, had to be extremely careful in her delivery, as she was an offstage character. To show the depth of her character, Jenny had to change from standing up to Oedipus to being affectionate towards him, just as Dr. Cuddy does to Dr. House. Jenny used a loud dominant tone at first, then slowly begin using a wavering and desperate tone as her character became more worried about Oedipus: “JOCASTA: What is the meaning of this loud argument, you quarrelsome men?” (Sophocles 43); “JOCASTA: No! In God’s name-if you want to live, this quest must not go on!/ I implore you, do not do it” (Sophocles 55).
Kazi, who played Teiresias, used a strong and whimsical tone to establish his character’s wise nature. Kazi was chosen to play the prophet because his deep voice made him excellent as opposing Oedipus. He utilized his deep voice to establish dominance and make it clear to the audience that he was not going to be overcome by Oedipus, proving himself to be the first character to stand up against Oedipus: “TEIRESIAS: I tell no more. Rage with what wrath you will.” (Sophocles 35).
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Finally, Saad was chosen to be Creon. Visually, he made an excellent counterpart to Oedipus, as he was taller, had a clean-shaven look and appeared very sly. His inquisitive and rational tone was used to deflect the anger present in many of Oedipus’ remarks, making the audience consider who was right: “CREON: Reason with yourself, would any man exchange a quiet life…for an uneasy throne?”. His rational arguments are reminiscent of those put forward by Dr. House’s closest friend, Dr. Wilson. At the end of the play, Saad exhibited his sly nature by showing that he shared many of the same qualities as Oedipus, using extreme sarcasm and being extremely condescending towards Oedipus: “CREON: I am not here to scoff at your fall,/ Nor yet to reproach you for your past misdeeds” (Sophocles 65).
Once each actor decided how he or she wanted to portray his or her character, it was necessary to revisit the script and make numerous changes adhering to the new personality of the character. Each actor’s varied use of tone and emotion helped establish the theme of the play while also enhancing the performance.
While the scripting and delivery of the play made subtle allusions to House M.D and cleverly paralleled the characters of the show, the look of the play and the appearance of the characters was the most blatant way of making the audience understand the theme. The characters’ clothing was the most blunt and direct form of recognition for the audience, thus it had to be carefully planned. To represent Dr. House, Manish wore classic jeans with a dress shirt and a blazer. To make it even more obvious, he used a cane–Dr. House’s signature prop–and a bottle of pills. To create the setting of a hospital, many of the characters were dressed like doctors. Saad, depicting Dr. Wilson, wore a lab coat and carried a stethoscope. Brendan and Shivon, meant to be Dr. House’s team, both wore lab coats and stuck together, speaking in turns to establish that they were a team. To further show that it was a hospital, a small waiting room was added at the end of the stage, with several extras reading magazines while waiting for a doctor. At the other end of the stage was Dr. House’s desk, where Manish used the blackboard to write out the symptoms of an illness, exactly as it seen on House M.D.
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The look of the play was detrimental to the tone of the play: the lab coats made the discussion of the illness seem much more serious and the congregation of doctors made the quest of searching for a cure plausible. Before any of the visuals were used, a distinguished audio clip was used–the theme song of House M.D. The clip was again an effort to mirror House M.D, but was also used to build tension in the audience. Another important factor of the play was the stage direction. The characters went back and forth across the stage, constantly utilizing different parts of the stage to give the play a moving feel, as House M.D often refuses to stay in one location for more than a few minutes. The look of the play was the easiest way for the audience to realise what the theme of the play was and was executed carefully to give as many visual clues as possible.
Scripting was a dynamic process that was constantly altered to keep up with any changes made to the play. Although it was most first used to establish tone, secondly used to accentuate character and used minimally for the look of the play, the significance of each of these elements occurs in the reverse order. That is to say, the look of the play was the most important, as it immediately clarified the theme. Once the blatant visual techniques made the audience obvious to the theme, the audience had a chance to understand the portrayals of the characters and finally was able to follow the subtle scripting parallels. It is impossible to separate each element into when it was considered, since they are all interdependent: throughout the development of the script, the portrayal of the characters is heavily pondered as is the overall look of the play. Similarly, the final portrayal of each character is only perfected through scripting changes and visual decisions. The theme of the rendition was excellently clarified throughout the play because each of the aspects was skilfully interconnected through use of flexible scripting.