Julius Caesar

By Kole, Robert | Shakespeare Bulletin, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview
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Julius Caesar

Kole, Robert, Shakespeare Bulletin

Presented by the Moonwork Theatre Company at the Connelly Theater, New York, New York. October 30-November 23, 2003. Directed by Gregory Wolfe. Adapted by Gregory Wolfe and Gregory J. Sherman. Set by Lowell Pettit. Costumes by Oana Botez-Ban. Lighting by David Sherman. Music and Sound by Andrew Sherman. Fight Choreography by Ian Marshall With Christopher Yates (Brutus), Dan Snow (Soothsayer), Bill Gorman (Julius Caesar), Paula Stevens (Casca), Sarah Knowlton (Calphurnia), Christopher Haas (Antony), Mason Pettit (Cassius), Jay Caussoin (Cinna, Ensemble), Ax Norman (Metellus Cimber, Ensemble), Mary Birdsong (Portia), Kim Patton (Cicero, Ensemble), Justin Steeve (Octavius Caesar), Gabriel Edelman (Lepidus, Ensemble), and others.

Moonwork Theatre Company's multi-media production of Julius Caesar uses familiar images of modern-day politics. But these innovations do not appear as gimmicks. Instead, Moonwork presents them within a richly detailed dramatic vision.

Dressed in suits and ties, Caesar, Antony, Brutus, and Cassius look like modern-day politicians in the midst of an election campaign. Above the stage, two giant video screens broadcast campaign rallies, political advertisements, roundtable discussions, news reports, and press conferences. Some of these "broadcasts" are live camera shots of what is happening on the stage itself, such as when Brutus and Antony address the people after the death of Caesar. But most of these broadcasts have been pre-recorded, even though some of them are presented as if "live."

When the play opens, Cassius and Brutus are "backstage" at a political rally for the "Caesar/Antony" ticket. The rally is being broadcast on the video screens above the stage. While Cassius and Brutus talk together, other players portray the technicians and campaign workers needed to organize the rally taking place offstage. These workers drink coffee and bottled water and munch on pastries. Some of them hold clipboards or monitor the rally on their computers.

In the broadcast of the rally we see posters announcing, "VOTE Caesar/Antony." We watch as Antony offers Caesar a laurel crown, while the crowd below them cheers. As part of the broadcast, a news anchor derivers some of Casca's fines from 1.2 describing the event, lines Casca would deliver to Brutus and Cassius. The rally ends in pandemonium when Caesar falls down unconscious, suffering from a seizure. Antony tries to block the camera with his hand to prevent the public from seeing that his running mate has the "falling sickness." Caesar enters when he is carried "backstage" by his security detail, where he eventually recovers. When Casca enters from the Caesar/Antony rally, he shows Cassius and Brutus a newspaper headline that reads, "Senate Will Give Crown to Caesar." Marcellus and Flavius are presented as television commentators admonishing Rome for its ingratitude to Pompey. During their broadcast, we see people on the street holding up signs in support of Caesar's election. A reporter questions them, and they explain to the camera why they "cull out a holiday" to honor Caesar.

The video screens are very effective in conveying the chaos that immediately follows the assassination. A shocked news anchor announces that Julius Caesar is dead. The camera then cuts to a "Military Spokesman" in camouflage fatigues who reassures the public that "ambition's debt is paid" and no one else will die. Standing alongside this high-ranking officer are ominous looking civilians in suits and ties, who say nothing.

Details like this add to the atmosphere of a coup d'etat in progress, and a struggle for the people's support fought primarily through the media. For example, Mark Antony's servant, who negotiates with Brutus in 3.1, is captioned on the video screen as "Mark Antony's Spokesman.

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