Review: CORIOLANUS at Portland Center Stage

This riveting production runs through May 19.

By: May. 08, 2024
Review: CORIOLANUS at Portland Center Stage
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

CORIOLANUS is not one of Shakespeare’s most popular or frequently performed plays. But, after seeing the riveting production currently running at Portland Center Stage co-presented with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I think it should be. Especially right now. The play, set in Ancient Rome, is about politics, class, war, masculinity, grievance, revenge – issues that could just as easily have pulled from today’s headlines.

In the play, two Roman patricians, Menenius and Martius, face a revolt by the city’s plebians, who are starving. To calm the plebians, the patricians grant them representation in government. Then Roman territory is attacked by the Volscians. Martius leads the Roman forces to victory. After the victory, he expects to be made a consul, but first he has to ask the plebians for their vote. Since he has shown them nothing but disdain, they reject him. He seeks revenge.

Portland Center Stage’s production is a modern verse translation by Sean San José, written as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play On! project, whose goal is to make Shakespeare’s language more accessible to modern audiences. This was my first time seeing CORIOLANUS, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I felt that the spirit of the Bard was well-preserved.

The cast is made up of women and non-binary actors, which puts a new spin on an old tale that is primarily about men and war. The most exciting part for me was simply being able to see some incredible actors take on roles they would not normally be cast in. Jessika D. Williams is a fabulous, imposing Coriolanus, while Caro Zeller demonstrates impressive range as Aufidius (the Volscian leader), Virgilia (Coriolanus’s wife – one of the few women characters), and a member of the ensemble.

In addition to the performances, what makes this production stand out is the visual elements. Director Rosa Joshi and movement director Alice Gosti use movement to set the emotional tone and create haunting visual images to illustrate complex concepts. For example, the plebians are often depicted as a mob, forsaking their individual identities to become part of a seething crowd. The emotions are amplified by Sarah Hughey’s dramatic lighting design and Sara Ryung Clement’s set, which appears minimalist but has some fun surprises.

Overall, I thought this was an extraordinary production, one that will appeal to Shakespeare nerds and newbies alike. This production, with much of the current cast, will run at OSF this summer. Take advantage of the opportunity to see it here now through May 19! Details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Jingzi Zhao


To post a comment, you must register and login.