The Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Julius Caesar crackles with intrigue and emotion. While the production of Antony and Cleopatra running as the other part of the Washington company's "Roman Repertory" is leisurely in its pacing and often drags, Julius Caesar seldom lets up as it shows how politicians use presentation (and, at times, fabrication) to shape their message.
In the conception of director David Muse, Julius Caesar (Dan Kremer) makes his first entrance with an appearance of supreme confidence, celebrating his victorious return to Rome with a parade of banners bearing a larger-than-life graphic of his face. However, when Caesar attempts to laugh at the tattered, dust-covered soothsayer (Kryztov Lindquist) warning him to beware the Ides of March, his hand shakes, showing he's not as secure as he pretends to be.
This production spends a lot of time peeking behind the curtains of power. The audience observes the clear manipulation of Caius Cassius (Scott Parkinson) as he persuades Marcus Brutus (Tom Hammond) to join the plot to assassinate Caesar, and ultimately to take the fall. Muse and fight director Rick Sordelet have staged the attack itself with a mixture of grace and athleticism, as well as emphatic spurts of blood.
What goes around comes around, of course, with the reaction of Caesar's supporter Mark Antony (Andrew Long): a man whose love of drinking and partying leads the conspirators to consider him a lightweight. Long demonstrates great personal magnetism as he uses his funeral oration for Caesar to sway the Roman populace and recast the supposed patriots as traitors.
In the overwhelmingly male world of this play, Kim Martin-Cotten and Nancy Rodriguez stand out as, respectively, the largely powerless wives of Caesar and Brutus. Another notable cast member is composer and percussionist Martin Desjardins, who provides a hypnotic variety of tonal and rhythmic effects from a position above the stage.
James Noone's set, with its broad platforms, tall doorways and collapsible staircases, provides a vast canvas for a large company of actors. Lighting designer Mark McCullough has devised a cinematic effect to keep the focus on the drama of individual people: using pinpoint spotlights on small conversations in the midst of the crowd.
Shakespeare Theatre Company