Were "Oedipus Rex" a TV sitcom, it would logically be called "How I Met My Mother." Fortunately, playwright Sophocles had other things on his mind.

Were "Oedipus Rex" a TV sitcom, it would logically be called "How I Met My Mother." Fortunately, playwright Sophocles had other things on his mind.

Some 2,400 years after it was written, the story of the man who unknowingly murders his father - the first recorded instance of road rage - and then marries his mother still packs a punch.

This month Actors' Theatre of Columbus makes one of its rare excursions into the world before Shakespeare and comes up with a simple and starkly visceral production of the Greek drama.

As Oedipus, Nick Baldasare displays surety in his self-confidence and devastation in his self-destruction. As the blind seer Tiresias, Joel Cohen pleads to keep the terrible truths to himself. Todd Covert, as the unjustly accused Creon, looks forward to his vindication with the words "Time alone reveals the just man." Josie Merkle gives Queen Jocasta a youthful flair in her joy, pivoting quickly into grief. And Miles Drake makes for a stately priest of Zeus.

John S. Kuhn, directing a surprisingly accessible 1885 translation by the British classicist Richard Claverhouse Jebb, keeps the focus on the words. This makes the only serious shortcoming of the production all the more surprising: Only occasionally does the masked chorus manage to chant in unison, making the group's vital observations hard to understand.

This flaw should not deter theatergoers and park visitors from taking advantage of this rare opportunity to see what might justly be called the mother of all tragedies.