Antony and Cleopatra
The production of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra now at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington is sumptuously staged but often slow and ponderous, especially in the second half. The company is presenting Antony and Cleopatra as part of a "Roman Repertory" with Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
As befits an epic tragedy, Michael Kahn has filled the large stage of Sidney Harman Hall with a sizable cast, appearing on and around James Noone's massive set with its two long staircases that connect an upper platform with the stage floor. It's all very busy while not being that involving, as the pageantry – the rushes of armies, the roistering parties, the bustle of the Egyptian court – overpowers the feverish central romance of Mark Antony (Andrew Long) and Cleopatra (Suzanne Bertish).
Neither of these legendary characters is especially accessible in this production, as envisioned by Kahn. Bertish portrays the Egyptian queen as being driven by a succession of raging passions, shifting from one to the next with head-snapping suddenness. Long is quieter and more reactive as Antony, whether besotted with Cleopatra or trying to reassert himself as a military leader.
Among the rest of the cast, Aubrey K. Deeker acquits himself well as Octavius Caesar, the youthful heir to Julius Caesar and Antony's co-ruler, who is being forced to learn on the job about diplomacy and dominating a large chunk of the world. Ted van Griethuysen has a small but memorable role as the third Roman triumvir, Lepidus, mostly in a rowdy drinking scene. Kaytie Morris makes an impression as Octavia, the sister of Octavius who becomes a political pawn, and Dan Kremer brings a world-weary dignity to the role of Antony's follower Enobarbus.
Composer Martin Desjardins and sound designer Daniel Baker do a noteworthy job of using music to set the two scenes: martial sounds for Rome, seductive flutes and pipes in middle eastern harmonies for Egypt. Jennifer Moeller's sumptuous costume designs add to the atmosphere of luxury and decadence.
Shakespeare Theatre Company