The characters still refer to themselves as Romans and Egyptians, but editor/director Tarell Alvin McCraney's vibrant and sexy production of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra sets the story of the volatile mixing of romance and politics in French-colonial Saint-Domingue on the eve of revolution.

Joaquina Kalukango and Jonathan Cake
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

In collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Miami's GableStage, the intimate production opens at The Public with a cast of nine actors from the ranks of both British and American Equity. Perched above are four musicians, led by Akintayo Akinbode, filling the air with sweet Caribbean melodies.

McCraney takes quite a few cutting and pasting liberties with the text, including having the role of Antony's pal Enobarbus act as a kind of narrator. Though lines like, "Meanwhile, in Caesar's camp . . ." don't come off as especially Elizabethan, Chukwudi Iwuji is wonderfully engaging in the role.

The story has Mark Antony, one of the trio of rulers keeping the Roman Republic together after the assassination of Julius Caesar, significantly AWOL while enjoying paradise in the arms of Cleopatra. Jonathan Cake, who doesn't require much time to bare his chest in this one, plays Antony with frat boy lustfulness. His deep, plummy tones drip with smirking cockiness as he makes foolish decisions in both love and way.

Chukwudi Iwuji (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Though Joaquina Kalukango is much younger, her Cleopatra comes off as the mature one, enjoying the control her earthy allure has over the powerful Roman (Frenchman?).

As Antony's colleagues, Samuel Collings is an appropriately stiff and serious Octavius Caesar, looking Napoleonic in the role, and Henry Stram adds some humor as a somewhat foppish Lepidus.

There's quite a bit of double and triple casting, and it's sometimes unclear when actors have switched roles, but with its sexy staging and lively Caribbean music and dancing, this Antony and Cleopatra is more of an entertainment than a deep exploration of the text.

A welcome tropical splash during this freezing late winter.

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Michael Dale After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.


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