Smile Politely

All kinds of murder and friendship in My Little Titus Andronicus

A darkly lit theatre stage; there are party decorations; actors stand on stage dressed as colorful magical ponies. A man is on the right, with a black hat and dressed all in black.
Serenity Stanton Orengo

I recently wrote how I learned about My Little Titus Andronicus (a play combining the children’s toy My Little Pony with the gruesome Shakespeare tragedy) in a late-night email, convinced myself I had dreamed it, and didn’t confirm the play’s existence until several weeks later. Even still, periodically throughout the last few months I would occasionally google the title to confirm that I had not made the entire thing up because the premise just seemed too wild to be believed: would they be dressed as ponies? Would they have the pony voices? Was it violent? Would they really show that scene from Titus Andronicus? Outside of confirming it existed and would in fact be staged by Twin City Theatre Co. in August, I carefully avoided learning absolutely anything at all about this production (but still told everyone I knew about it).

I will avoid spoilers until the very end of this review (and even then, it will be vague), but I will say if you aren’t familiar with the plot of the original Titus, a Game of Thrones storyline was inspired by the Shakespearian play, to give you some idea of the level of drama and violence it entails. Heading into the play — which lasts about an hour — I wasn’t quite sure who the target audience was. Certainly not children (the play is advertised for ages 10 and up). I imagine the number of people who, like me, have read Titus Andronicus and also want to see a play about magical ponies is quite small. As it turns out, you really don’t need to be familiar with Titus at all.

The basic premise of My Little Titus Andronicus is as follows: a group of ponies (yes, the actors are dressed up as ponies and unicorns, complete with tails, “hoovsies,” manes, and lots of sequins) are convinced to stage a production of Titus Andronicus for Princess Millenia’s birthday by an evil and overbearing magical pony stage director. The ponies don’t know the plot of the play and are horrified as more and more plot points are revealed during their rehearsals, and they wonder why the play can’t just be about friendship. The longer I watched, I realized there would be a clear benefit to not knowing the plot to Titus before you attend: you would get to experience the horror of learning what happens along with the ponies (and their dramatic sound effects).

A play within a play premise is extremely useful when you are staging a lower-budget local theatre production. The ponies as actors forget their lines and never have the right tone in their delivery of the Titus sequences: at one point the main pony says, “Wait, I’m supposed to be crazy now. Bleh, I’m so kookie!”; another says, “I’m scary now. Boo. Boooo.” It’s funny; very, very funny. Most likely mistakes were made — I was at the dress rehearsal when certain things were still being worked out, and I suspect at one point a sword wasn’t supposed to be dropped — but everything played off like it was part of the show and due to the ponies’ characteristic clumsiness.

Actors stand on a dimly lit stage that is decorated for a birthday party. On the left is Princess Millenia sitting in a chair with other ponies surrounding her. On the right are the ponies presenting their version of titus andronicus.
Serenity Stanton Orengo

The star of the show is Pixie Poo (a play on Pinkie Pie, a well-known pony from the My Little Pony universe), an all-pink pony, who plays Titus in the play the ponies are staging. Ellix Simons played this part to perfection. My six-year-old is obsessed with My Little Pony (she had a MLP birthday one year, complete with a four-foot-tall Pinkie Pie balloon), so I am very familiar with the ponies. The actor was extremely believable as the naïve pony who just wants to sing and play, and their pony-voice was spot on.

The play was surprising, mostly because it was impossible to guess what it would be like ahead of time. What I definitely did not expect was the incredibly smart and witty dialogue. I was constantly writing down one-liners so I wouldn’t forget, and eventually gave up trying to capture all of it. Although it likely won’t land in this review as well, to give an idea, at one point the ponies break into song and dance and the song explains that they can change the plot of Shakespeare (to be more about friendship and less about murder) since “Shakespeare is in the public domain.”

[Minor spoiler alert:]

In the last 60 seconds of the play, there is a major twist that I absolutely did not see coming up until that moment. Yes, I should have. But the play convinced me it was something else entirely. I said out loud (to the entirely empty theatre because it was a dress rehearsal): “Shut the fuck up” and absolutely lost it. I had tears in my eyes from trying to contain my laughter at my absolute disbelief that the play went there. I smiled all the way to my car. I thought about it the entire way home. I got home and told every person in my household about it, then got on my computer and messaged seven people about it.

I wish I had seen the play with a full audience because I’m certain the laughter will be loud and frequent. The play is campy, it knows what it wants to be, and does it really well. I’m certain the person who conceived of this play did not do so sober, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. If a combination of My Little Pony and Titus Andronicus does not sound like the greatest thing in the world to you, then this play isn’t for you. But if you “get it,” you won’t be disappointed.

My Little Titus Andronicus
University Laboratory High School North Attic Theatre
1212 W Springfield
Aug 4-6 + 11-13
Th-Sa 7 p.m.
Su 2 p.m.

More Articles