Gregory Wolfe – Mason Pettit – Kathy Keane – James Wolfe
In association with
Gray Lady Entertainment
Adapted by Gregory Wolfe & Gregory J. Sherman
220 E. 4 St., NYC
(212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com
October 30 – November 23, 2003
Directed by GREGORY WOLFE
Sets LOWELL PETTIT
Lighting DAVID SHERMAN
Costumes OANA BOTEZ-BAN
Composer & Sound Designer ANDREW SHERMAN
Asst. Director & Choreographer JENA NECRASON
Fight Choreographer IAN MARSHALL
Stage Manager LYNNAE ANDERSEN
Director of Video Photography MATTHEW RANSON
Press Representative SAM RUDY MEDIA RELATIONS
(in order of appearance)
Soothsayer – Dan Snow
Julius Caesar – Bill Gorman
Casca – Paula Stevens
Calpurnia – Sarah Knowlton
Antony – Christopher Haas
Brutus – Christopher Yates
Cassius – Mason Pettit
Cinna/Ensemble – Jay Gaussoin
Metellus Cimber/Ensemble – Ax Norman
Portia – Mary Birdsong
Cicero/Ensemble – Kim Patton
Octavius Caesar – Justine Steeve
Lepidus/Ensemble – Gabriel Edelman
Messala/Ensemble – John Roque
Pindarus/Ensemble – Tatiana Gomberg
Ensemble – Gail Giovanniello, Kelly Kinsella
Well, Moonwork is back, and this time they are presenting a highly adaptive version of William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR. The multimedia event, a combination of live action and projected film, also has the distinction of being the shortest version of this play that I have ever seen. Running at just about two hours with a 15 minute intermission, and full of fast moving video montage that plays rather like the credits for "NYPD Blue" but faster, this is a JULIUS CAESAR for a newer, busier generation.
Certainly, this JULIUS CAESAR begs the audience to suspend much disbelief, and it has nothing to do with the modern dress. This is, after all, an adaptation. As such, it works well in some places, and not quite so well in others. The conspirators’ daggers have been replaced by a single pistol, with each assassin taking a turn to fire a shot. The essence and letter of Shakespeare’s language, including famous lines and references, has been left in tact where uncut, but dialogue is sometimes attributed to characters other than those who speak the lines in the original version of the play. The Soothsayer, the strange character who warns Caesar to beware of the Ides of March, has a much larger part here that has rendered him almost mythical. Dressed as a homeless man, raging in the streets and in the backdrop, the Soothsayer is a presence during several key points in the play. Of course, JULIUS CAESAR takes place in Italy, but all of the political props are pure U.S.A. stars and stripes. The stage is often awash in press conference frenzy, with all expected cameras, microphones and reporters at hand.
I suspect these choices, very deliberate of course, are meant to highlight the timelessness of political machinations and backstabbing. For, the fate of Caesar could happen in the here and now, with one slight exception. We would have to be a nation that accepted political assassinations between parties if carried out for a good reason. With character assassination routine, can a physical version be far behind? What about other modern nations? People do still lose their lives as others attempt to ascend to power. These are scary suppositions, mostly for being no too far from reality.
Although not at the level of Moonwork’s marvelous adaptation of RICHARD III, a production that also combined live action and film, this version of JULIUS CAESAR is respectable in and of itself. The production design is sleek and stylishly packaged, both in terms of physical set and costume design, and in terms of direction and choreography. The video segments, including on the spot reports, talking head roundtable commentary, and live feed of the two, crucial funeral speeches, add to the sense that politics have moved into the realm of entertainment, with the visual baring major import on swaying the masses. This, perhaps is the most poignant update from Shakespeare’s time. It is no longer enough to be a skilled orator. One must play the appropriate part when delivering the speech as well. Though we see nothing here reminiscent of, say, the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate, that footnote from our collective history has permeated consciousness and artistry in ways we may not even realize. That said, I would have preferred strong oration in addition to the video. As delivered, the funeral speeches did not sway me, and this was symptomatic of a larger problem that a handful of actors had in conveying the import of the language. On film or off, on stage or not, these are words that require charisma and resolute delivery. That cannot be faked. Luckily, this was a localized problem.
Once again, Moonwork is bringing William Shakespeare to modern audiences by employing the technology of the moment to render the Bard, as he was always meant to be, a voice for the masses to enjoy. This latest, JULIUS CAESAR, though flawed, is more than good enough to recommend.
- Kessa De Santis -