BWW Reviews: An Orlando Shakes Staple JULIUS CAESAR
One tragedy that is synonymous with Shakespeare is JULIUS CAESAR. It is one of the classics that, at some point, is forced upon by high school English teachers. The challenge with producing a famously known Shakespeare piece is keeping it fresh and relevant to today's audience.
Interestingly this production of JULIUS CAESAR is apart of a partnership between three different Shakespeare companies: Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Prague Shakespeare Company (Prague, Czech Republic), and Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, MA). The production shares a director and designers, but different actors. It would be very interesting to compare the productions as they progress and draw on each production's strength.
If it's been awhile since you've last read through JULIUS CAESAR here is a quick summary: Caesar is celebrated after a military win and offered a crown three times during a public ceremony that he refuses. A few Senators become jealous and fearful of his influence. Senator Cassius convinces Brutus and a few others that Caesar has become too powerful and they plot to kill him. The conspirators stab Caesar 33 times. Caesar's loyal friend, Antony, uses his oration skills to incite rage. Spoiler alert: There's a battle and everyone commits suicide in a poetic fashion.
All the classic lines are there: "Beware the ides of March," "Et tu Brute?," "Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears." (And suddenly high school English comes rushing back.) There is something to be said about having a better appreciation for Shakespearean humor as a more mature audience member. I do not remember laughing out loud while reading it, but there were definitely some funny moments tucked into this tragedy. It also helps to have a strong cast with great delivery.
A troupe of seven actors play all the characters in JULIUS CAESAR. With the simple costumes it is sometimes hard to distinguish who is who. The costumes are a modern military look that gives the feel of a cool, almost Star Trek-like setting, including cargo pants. Purist fear not, there are many robes and sashes that contrast the contemporary look and tie together the typical Ancient Greece standard.
As the title character Nigel Gore's Julius Caesar is regal, but human. The lighting does wonders for highlighting Gore's distinguished face. His death scene was not over-acted and or inappropriately drawn out.
Esau Pritchett projects Antony with a sonorous presence. Pritchett's delivery during the funeral speech is deep and focused. Every word flows naturally, yet feels like each word was chosen very carefully. You can truly appreciate the genius of Shakespeare through Pritchett's performance.
The trio of conspirators: Brutus, Cassius, and Casca (Paul Bernardo, Jason Asprey, Jim Ireland [respectively]) are clever and vicious. Brutus is the bad guy that we love and hate. He is influential and human; whereas, Cassius is a yeller and smooth-talker. It is interesting to watch Cassius gain Brutus's alliance and then the aftermath of a truly not well thought out plan. Jim Ireland's Casca was entirely laugh out loud entertaining and a welcomed comedic relief.
The staging makes the show interesting. During the long drawn out monologues, the actors perform semi-contemporary dance to demonstrate the monologue. There is a lot of great modern movement during the production that adds to the overall dramatic effect. The lighting is haunting and the use of blackouts is appropriately chilling, especially during battle scenes. It is very thought out and completely immerses the audience.
Photo Credit: Tony Firriolo