BWW Review: An Alluring Journey with ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA at Orlando Shakes
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA is one of those mandatory high school reading Shakespeare classics that never gets old. Though it is a tragedy, Orlando Shakes production is glamorous, entertaining and extremely palatable. Casting, costumes, and classic story come together to make ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA the crown jewel of the season.
Heading the cast is famed Star Trek actor Michael Dorn as Mark Antony. As Antony, Dorn fulfills his role as both powerful and impulsive. After living through all the drama with Julius Caesar, it is no wonder that Antony chooses to take a break and indulge in the grandeur of Egypt. When duty calls, Antony returns to Rome and does what is best for the Empire, but war draws him back to Egypt. He is a fallible character as his love blinds him from making logical war decisions. The rest is history. Shakespeare suits Dorn well. He has a classic pitch and interprets the character well.
Opposite Dorn is Caralyn Kozlowski as Cleopatra. Kozlowski is confident, coy and has personality for days. She truly shines in the role. Whenever she needs to be the demanding queen or the torn lover. She is much funnier as Cleopatra than I expected - acting like a spoiled teenager in love more often than a queen. Her lines flow off her tongue like it's her everyday speech. She's alluring when she needs to be and also desperate at just the right moments.
There is good chemistry between Dorn and Kozlowski. It's tense and magnetic. Anyone who has ever experienced? all consuming love will relate to the pair's obsession with each other. It is interesting to think that this love obsession shaped the course of history. Sure Shakespeare and historians may hype up the love aspect of the story, but these people and these wars really occurred.
Orlando Shakes has seriously stepped up their casting game in the past few seasons. Most of this cast joins Shakes for their Debut Season. Notable other performers include: Jeorge Bennett Watson as Mark Antony's right-hand man Enobarus and understudy for Mark Antony. Watson has the booming deep voice that I originally imagined Antony would have. During his mournful final soliloquy, Watson thoughtfully reflects on his life as a tragic hero. It's strange seeing this character, who is so militarily brilliant, just die not in a blaze of glory, but just simply alone at night.
Rodney Lizcano, as Octavius Caesar fits well with the Orlando Shakes company. I would be surprised if this is the only Shakes production we see of him. Octavius Caesar is not the Caesar that gets stabbed, but the one after. Lizcano carries himself in that royal way. His attitude is a little pompous, but befitting an emperor.
Although you know the ending, it is still surprising when you see how many characters die at the end of this Shakespearean tragedy. The famous death scene is not overly dramatic and the story resolves rather quickly. We see Cleopatra enter her final scene: beautiful and goddess-like an instant she's gone (along with everyone around her). It is easy to see why history glamorizes this story.
The set is simple with faux pyramid brick and an Egyptian inspired sculpture that helps frame the scene. An interesting set piece is a downstage raised platform that elevates when needed. Though it is slightly distracting as the mechanical sound of the platform lifting, juxtaposes the ancient setting. Luckily, this only occurs three times. Director Joseph Discher makes great use of the Goldman Theater. The space is smaller, but it serves as the perfect venue because of it. Actors exit and enter through the aisles, which makes the production feel more immersive.
The costumes designed by Yao Chen are simply stunning. Cleopatra and her ladies are decked out in flowy teal dresses that I may just have to steal when the production is done. Chen also goes over-the-top with some of Cleopatra's queen attire that adds regalness simply by adding a glittery gold cape (which I will also need to steal at the end of the production). The men dress stately in their ancient Roman tunics and armor.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA runs until April 30th. Arrive 30-minutes early for a prologue series for an interactive discussion about the plot, themes, and characters. Tickets are mostly sold out, but single seats are available. Standby tickets are also available on the day of performance. This has quickly one of my favorite classic Orlando Shakes productions, so I highly recommend making it a point to see it. For tickets and more information visit OrlandoShakes.org.
Photo Credits: Tony Firriolo