Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 plebiansJunius 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