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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Coriolanus

Also see Susan's review of American Utopias and coverage of The Helen Hayes Awards


Patrick Page
William Shakespeare's tragedy Coriolanus can be a difficult play to appreciate: while it has a strong central character, the primary drama is in the conflict between the aristocracy (patricians) and the working class (plebians) in ancient Rome, and neither side is particularly noble. The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington and director David Muse have succeeded in making this material accessible, anchored by the charismatic title performance of Patrick Page.

Page is Caius Martius, a Roman general who earns the name "Coriolanus" in recognition of one of his victories. He is devoted to his personal honor and the honor of Rome, with little patience for those whose standards are not as high as his own. He respects as an equal the enemy general Aufidius (Reginald Andre Jackson) and loves, in a reserved way, his wife Virgilia (Aaryn Kopp), but the only person who can crush him is his august and fierce mother, Volumnia (majestic Diane D'Aquila).

The problem surrounding Coriolanus is that the ranks of society might as well be cast in concrete (like the grim amphitheater set designed by Blythe R.D. Quinlan). The plebians resent what they see as mistreatment by the patricians, who in turn believe the plebians don't understand the needs of society. The tribunes assigned to speak for the plebians—Junius Brutus (slimy Philip Goodwin) and Sicinius Velutus (pompous Derrick Lee Weeden)—use their power to plot, then to manipulate the masses for their own purposes.

As one might expect, the production is intensely physical, vibrating with the power of Rick Sordelet's fight choreography. The plebians roughhouse among themselves and battle with sticks and metal pipes; Coriolanus and Aufidius duel with swords, knives, and hand to hand; and even Volumnia takes up a staff to play at war with her grandson (Hunter Zane).

Muse, working with composer/sound designer Mark Bennett, uses the sound of drums as a virtual heartbeat of the production. Tall, barrel-like drums, hand-held tambourines, even a small version of a tuned steel drum: they all have their places in this epic of battles both internal and external.

Murell Horton's costumes blend historic periods for an overall sense of dignity, from the leather strips of the soldiers' armor to the sweeping floor-length robes for the Roman senators and consul. Mark McCullough has created a surprisingly dynamic lighting design: some scenes are lit by lights held by members of the ensemble.

Coriolanus is the first part of the Shakespeare Theatre Company's "Hero/Traitor Repertory," which will also include an adaptation by Robert Pinsky of Friedrich Schiller's Wallenstein.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Coriolanus March 28th - June 2nd, in repertory with Wallenstein
By William Shakespeare
The Patricians:
Caius Martius, later Caius Martius Coriolanus: Patrick Page
Volumnia, his mother: Diane D'Aquila
Virgilia, his wife: Aaryn Kopp
Young Martius, his son: Hunter Zane
Menenius Agrippa, senator and friend to Coriolanus: Robert Sicular
Cominius, consul and Roman general: Steve Pickering
Titus Lartius: Nick Dillenburg
Junius Brutus, tribune of the people: Philip Goodwin
Sicinius Velutus, tribune of the people: Derrick Lee Weeden
Roman Senators: Lise Bruneau, Reginald Andre Jackson, Michael Santo
Valeria, a noblewoman: Lise Bruneau
Tullus Aufidius, general of the Volscian army: Reginald Andre Jackson
Volscian Lords: Nick Dillenburg, Steve Pickering, Michael Santo
The Plebians:
Citizens, Soldiers, Attendants, Messengers, Heralds, Aediles: John Bambery, Jeffrey Baumgartner, Philip Dickerson, Avery Glymph, Chris Hietikko, Jacqui Jarrold, Joe Mallon, Glen Pannell, Max Reinhardsen, Brian Russell, Jjana Valentiner, Jaysen Wright
Directed by David Muse
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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