Julius Caesar

Article excerpt

Julius Caesar Presented by The Shakespeare Theatre Company at Sidney Harman Hall, Washington, DC. April 27-July 6, 2008. Directed by David Muse. Set by James Noone. Costumes by Jennifer Moeller. Lighting by Mark McCullough. Compositions and Percussion by Martin Desjardins. Sound by Daniel Baker. Fights by Rick Sordelet. With Dan Kremer (Julius Caesar), Kim Martin-Cotten (Calpurnia), Aubrey K. Deeker (Octavius Caesar), Andrew Long (Mark Antony), Ted van Griethuysen (Lepidus), Tom Hammond (Marcus Brutus), Scott Parkinson (Caius Cassius), Dean Nolen (Caska), Nancy Rodriguez (Portia), Michael Sharon (Marcellus)Jan Knightsley (Flavius), Kryztov Lindquist (Soothsayer), Robert Jason Jackson (Cicero), and others.

Antony and Cleopatra Presented by The Shakespeare Theatre Company at Sidney Harman Hall, Washington, DC. April 27-July 6, 2008. Directed by Michael Kahn. Set by James Noone. Costumes by Jennifer Moeller. Lighting by Mark McCullough. Compositions by Martin Desjardins. Sound by Daniel Baker. Fights by Rick Sordelet. With Andrew Long (Mark Antony), Suzanne Bertish (Cleopatra), Aubrey K. Deeker (Octavius Caesar), Ted van Griethuysen (Lepidus), Kurt Rhoads (Ventidius), Michael Sharon (Lucilius), Dan Kremer (Enobarbus), Craig Wallace (Pompey), Tom Hammond (Dolabella), Kaytie Morris (Octavia), Kim Martin-Cotten (Charmian), Nancy Rodrigues (Iras), and others.

For the inaugural season in their new second theatre, Sidney Harmon Hall, the Shakespeare Theatre Company presented two unique pairs of plays: Christopher Marlowe's Edward H and Tamburlaine in the fall, and William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra in the spring. While both pairs ran in repertory, the Roman plays presented distinct challenges for the actors--especially for those whose characters, like Antony and Octavius, appeared in both plays. As Antony and Cleopatra's assistant director Alan Paul explained during a post-performance discussion, the cast normally has four weeks to rehearse a play, but, in this case, the two casts rehearsed simultaneously for a total of only seven weeks. The toll on the actors, according to Paul, was heavy, and the company's Artistic Director, Michael Kahn, has sworn off repertory for at least the next few years. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of these two Roman plays provided a fascinating study of politics, power, loyalty, and love, and of the rises and falls of one great man (Julius Caesar) and of another (Mark Antony) who had greatness thrust upon him.

Julius Caesar opened with a chorus of escalating drumbeats, signaling both conflict and celebration, soaring above James Noone's elegant but utilitarian set. Featuring a trio of double doors, a series of ramps, posts, and balustrades, and two massive sets of steps, all rendered in wood tones, the set exuded a rigidity that paralleled the tenor of Caesar's Rome yet proved, surprisingly, to be highly flexible--much like the republic's citizens themselves. From the opening scene, this production, directed by David Muse, made clear that the crowd was to play a significant role and that all was not so well in the republic. Reveling laborers, playing hooky to cheer a triumph that may be more spin than reality, were chastised by Flavius for forgetting their debt to Pompey as they awaited Caesar's approaching procession. During the performance, crowds lingered in the background, and pockets of commoners popped up not only onstage but throughout the theater, hammering home two messages: that Rome was indeed a republic, and that the will of the people was always malleable and particularly susceptible to rhetoric and innuendo--messages not lost on a Washington audience in the midst of a national election year.

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Dan Kremer's Caesar showed the two faces of a savvy politician: humble, affable, and generous in public, but a smug and unbending martinet behind closed doors. This was a leader who claimed he was unworthy of the honors bestowed upon him and refused the crown three times, yet who ordered the arrest of those daring to pull down his celebratory banners. …