'Antony' Has Elegant Pathos; Superlative Cast, Director Depict the Honor of the Romans

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 13, 2008 | Go to article overview

'Antony' Has Elegant Pathos; Superlative Cast, Director Depict the Honor of the Romans


Byline: T.L. Ponick, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"Antony and Cleopatra" is not Shakespeare's most compelling drama. The Bard's take on this epic tragedy-history grows long and windy trying to cover the endless complexities of this political, military and emotional tangle.

That having been said, the Shakespeare Theatre Company's new production of the play at Sidney Harman Hall manages to uncover the dramatic heart of this problem play. With the help of a strong cast, this "Antony and Cleopatra," under the knowing direction of Michael Kahn, brings form, function and genuine pathos into this play's unwieldy structure.

One of the main problems with "Antony and Cleopatra" is its large number of short scenes, which are meant, almost like brief opera recitatives, to quickly advance the plot, allowing the bulk of the dramatic time to be spent on key emotional scenes.

Scene changes can take forever, but James Noone's elegantly simple set allows lightning-quick entrances and exits of armies and supporting characters alike, almost like the quick cuts and fades that rapidly advance the action in TV dramas.

Jennifer Moeller's nifty period costumes, ranging from togas to Roman battle armor, are a welcome break from the trend of outfitting historical stage characters in American business suits and street clothes. In our own times, where moral relativism is currently in fashion, the Roman concepts of heroism, strength and honor would seem utterly meaningless unless dressed in the uniforms that gave them meaning.

All this would be for naught, of course, if the company hadn't also hired an expert cast able to breathe life into this play's sometimes dusty lines.

As the play's eponymous hero and heroine, Andrew Long (Antony) and Suzanne Bertish (Cleopatra) generate romantic chemistry leavened with the kind of ennui that can only develop from long-standing relationships that rely on tricks and games to keep those fires burning. The casting of somewhat older actors in these roles adds further poignancy to this odd relationship.

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