Titus Andronicus is one of those Shakespeare plays that doesn't get performed much and that nobody reads in school unless they're a Shakespeare scholar. And here's why: It's ridiculously bloody, and racist, and the writing is generally considered among the worst in Shakespeare's oeuvre. The scholar Harold Bloom has called the play "an explosion of rancid irony," and "a poetic atrocity," and people in the audience of a 1955 London production laughed at parts that were supposed to be tragic, which he uses as evidence that it's a failure as a tragedy. CalShakes' new production, the first they've ever mounted of Shakespeare's earliest known tragedy, is nonetheless a fine example of the company's ability to embrace irony and modernize Shakespeare, complete with some fine performances, a fair amount of blood, and a lot of face-painted Goths.