Review Roundup: What Do the Critics Think of Shakespeare in the Park's CORIOLANUS?

By: Aug. 06, 2019
Review Roundup: What Do the Critics Think of Shakespeare in the Park's CORIOLANUS?

Shakespeare in the Park's Coriolanus officially opened last night, August 5!

The cast of Coriolanus includes Justin P. Armstrong (Ensemble), Teagle F. Bougere (Menenius Agrippa), Kate Burton (Volumnia),Jonathan Cake (Caius Martius Coriolanus), Louis Cancelmi (Tullus Aufidius), Katharine Chin (Ensemble), Gregory Connors (Ensemble),Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr. (Ensemble), Biko Eisen-Martin (Ensemble), Bree Elrod (Ensemble), Nayib Felix (Ensemble), Josiah Gaffney(Young Martius Standby), Chris Ghaffari (Titus Lartius), Enid Graham (Junius Brutus), Christopher Ryan Grant (Ensemble), Emeka Guindo(Young Martius), Jonathan Hadary (Sicinius Velutus), Suzannah Herschkowitz (Ensemble), Gemma Josephine (Ensemble), Thomas Kopache (First Senator), Tyler La Marr (Ensemble), L'Oreál Lampley (Ensemble), Jack LeGoff (Ensemble), Alejandra Mangini (Ensemble),Louis Reyes McWilliams (Ensemble), Max Gordon Moore (First Citizen), Tom Nelis (Cominius), Nneka Okafor (Virgilia), Donovan Price(Ensemble), Sebastian Roy (Ensemble), Ali Skamangas (Ensemble), Jason Paul Tate (Ensemble), and Amelia Workman (Valeria).

Coriolanus is running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park through Sunday, August 11.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Beowulf Boritt's set is dominated by a fortress assembled from pieces of sheet metal, with an old abandoned car, oil barrels, tires and assorted junk strewn about. Along with Kaye Voyce's eclectic set of rags for costumes and Jessica Paz's eerie sound design, there's the suggestion of a post-apocalyptic future. The grim atmosphere isn't utilized in any way that suggests a theme or a message, but this is a minor quibble for an overall satisfying bit of political intrigue.

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: But more than any Shakespeare in the Park offering of recent years, "Coriolanus" combines insight and showmanship with a clarity that makes you forget you're listening to Elizabethan English. All the cast members - including a gimlet-eyed Louis Cancelmi as Coriolanus's Volscian archrival and secret soul mate, Tullus Aufidius; and Nneka Okafor as his neglected wife, Virgilia - speak with engaging, heightened naturalism.

Matt Windman, amNY: The most notable interpretations of "Coriolanus" in recent years have treated it as a fast-paced, action-packed thrillers, including the 2011 Ralph Fiennes film and Robert Lepage's 2018 staging at Ontario's Stratford Festival. This production would have benefited from that kind of sharp focus, fluidity and visual intensity.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Sullivan delivers a basically straightforward staging, devoid of high concept, that places the emphasis squarely on the text. Fortunately, he has enough solid performers in the supporting cast who can deliver it well, including Teagle F. Bougere as Coriolanus' fellow patrician and friend Menenius; Louis Cancelmi as Aufidius, the Volscian general with whom Coriolanus forms a temporary alliance; and Amelia Workman as Valeria, a family friend who joins Volumnia in her pleas to spare Rome. Enid Graham and Jonathan Hadary are particularly outstanding as the Roman tribunes scheming to precipitate Coriolanus' downfall (the latter amusingly providing an ancient Roman echo of his repellent political power broker on HBO's Veep).

Barbara Schuler, Newsday: Jonathan Cake is formidable in the title role, aggressive and manipulating, if occasionally hitting the "Blade Runner" thug bit a little too hard. Kate Burton is wonderful as Volumnia, raging one moment, sobbing the next to show us where her kid learned the manipulation game. There are fine performances all around, with especially great work from Teagle F. Bougere as loyal adviser Menenius, Tom Nelis as the general Cominius and Louis Cancelmi as Aufidius, both friend and foe to Coriolanus. It all plays out on Beowulf Boritt's imposing corrugated metal set, with scruffy costumes by Kaye Boyce that look to be straight out of a thrift shop Dumpster.

Adam Feldman, TimeOut: The superb Cake brings a leaping physical energy to his performance, and like the rest of the cast in Daniel Sullivan's forceful yet nuanced account (including Teagle F. Bougere as a fellow patrician leader), he delivers Shakespeare's winding verse with precision and lucidity. But the focus is not merely personal. Like its close cousin Julius Caesar, which the Public presented two years ago in a much-misunderstood production, Coriolanus is concerned with the dual threats of tyranny and the madness of crowds. Sullivan's version sets the action in a postapocalyptic world of scarce resources and ugly corrugated metal (the striking set is by Beowulf Boritt) that calls attention to the play's plangent modern resonances.

Margret Echeverria, New York Theatre Guide: Weary of the many crowd scenes of battles and political campaigns, I turned to my date, a fellow actor, at intermission saying, "It's a pity we cannot criticize the writer." He laughed, startled by my sacrilege. Well, dammit! Sometimes the Bard puts so much exposition in these scenes that they seem to go on forever and then, just when you think we are about to move along - oh boy - stage combat! Fight director, Steve Rankin, was not well supported. The combat was slow in pace and would have worked nicely with some better lighting effects - strobe? Yeah, I would have been down with that - and perhaps some more tension in the actors' bodies. Instead, these scenes dragged.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: That Burton manages to make Volumnia even remotely human is a rare achievement. (This is a woman who beams with pride when she hears that her grandson tore apart a butterfly with his teeth.) But it's not enough to bring Coriolanus anywhere near Eliot's absurd "artistic success" category.

Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: These combined and conflicting forces are expertly martialed by Sullivan's smart, brisk staging, and while the show runs close to three hours (with an intermission), its doings scarcely drag. The pace grows even faster towards the conclusion, where designer Japhy Weideman's lighting casts roiling purple and blue clouds over the action like a symbolic bruise spreading across the body politic. Designers Beowulf Boritt and Kaye Voyce admirably and respectively supply the scenery and clothes for this desolation row of a Rome that fails to appreciate its finest hero.

Jeremy Gerard, Theatre News Online: Fortunately, director Daniel Sullivan has made no attempt to restate Coriolanus as a fable for our times. This lucid presentation may not be anyone's idea of a fanciful evening in the enchanting greenery of Central Park. And yet there's clarity and freshness of thinking that makes this final production of The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park (following the more broadly updated Much Ado About Nothing) so invigorating.

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