BWW Reviews: Shakespeare St. Louis's Intriguing Production of CORIOLANUS
St. Louis Shakespeare's mission is to present the complete works of Shakespeare, and with their current production of Coriolanus, they've moved one step closer toward attaining that goal. The trouble is that when you've performed all of the Bard's familiar and popular works, you're left with a few odds and ends that aren't quite as memorable. Still, this production is nicely mounted and very well acted. It's just a pity the script isn't quite up to snuff this time around.
Cauis Martius is a Roman General who fights against rioters in Rome, becoming a hero of sorts by the number of wounds he's received in battle. He's made a citizen and given the cognomen of “Coriolanus” in recognition of his valor, and is encouraged to become a consul member. But, Coriolanus is stubborn and refuses to kowtow to the very citizens he's to represent. His outspoken loathing leads to him fleeing the city while vowing revenge against the state. But, this is a tragedy so you know he won't make it out alive.
Reginald Pierre does a commendable job with the role of Coriolanus, even though there's little to really like about his character, aside from his combat skills. Richard Lewis is solid as always as Menenius, a Senator who tries to soften the blows of the outbursts that Coriolanus emits as he waxes philosophically, and openly, about his contempt for the citizens of Rome. Brian Kappler and Paul Devine are especially good as Sicinius and Brutus, respectively, two tribunes who stir up the rabble against Coriolanus. Aaron Dodd is also sharp as Cominimus, a fellow Roman General, and Michael Juncal delivers a positively guttural performance as Tullus Aufidius, sworn enemy of Coriolanus, and leader of the rebel Volscian.
Director Donna Northcott does a fine job here, and by updating the time period to the present, she's able to bring the current political climate into the show. It's a renovation that Coriolanus really needs in order to give the viewer something to cling to, since we're saddled with an almost anti-hero. It 's especially peculiar, and out of step with his other works, with its decided lack of soliloquies or memorable quotes. A few speeches might better explain the lead character's odd ambivalence, but here Shakespeare is found lacking. Shaun Sheley's fight choreography is worthy of mention, though, as are Amanda Handle's simple, but effective set design, and Steve Miller's moody lighting scheme.
This is an interesting production of a minor Shakespearean tragedy, and there are quality performances all around, it's just a shame the script makes its lead so one-dimensional.
Coriolanus continues through July 29, 2012.