Saturday, January 05, 2008

Julius Caesar - Seattle Shakespeare Company

Julius Caesar
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Tickets and Information
January 3 - 27, 2008

Set in a cross between Ancient Rome, the present and feudal Japan, Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Chamber Julius Caesar delivers an amazing interpretation of a classic piece. Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays. It is taught as early as elementary of middle school and has been made into countless adaptation for film, stage and beyond. This particular production, however, brings to life something very unique – an overwhelming sense of sympathy for those commonly known as the villains.

Directed by Gregg Loughridge, the production begins with audience participation within the immediate world of the play. The crowd is instantaneously drawn inside the world and not released until the curtain falls, so to speak. Simultaneously, the audience is bombarded with Roma Victor sentiments and feudal Japanese tradition. As one who has studied Japanese martial arts and, thus, some of the culture as well, it was very relaxing to see that no detail had gone amiss and that no detail would. Aiding this world is the set by scenic designer Jason Phillips. The set is consistent throughout the entire show except for a few incredibly minimal pieces. This world becomes indoors, outdoors, the battlefield and the bedroom. Similarly, Tim Wratten’s lighting design accents the heightened adrenaline pumping through the veins of the characters and into the audience.

David Quicksall and Hana Lass. Photo Credit Erik Stuhaug

The character Julius Caesar is one whom everyone knows. However, Andrew McGinn brings to the table a refreshingly level-headed Caesar. While Caesar is written as a rather calm character, McGinn embodies that collectedness in order to fully use it to his advantage. Meanwhile, there must be betrayers and none disappoint. Hana Lass playing Cassius and David Quicksall playing Brutus explode from the stage. Lass’s performance and intensity is an incredible force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile Quicksall’s Brutus really gets inside the character to let the audience in on his turmoil. Also standing out with one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches is David S. Hogan as Antony. The moment he begins to speak each word is a moment of rapture. He guides the audience through his plans and speeches with ease and grace.

One must remember, however, that this production is Chamber Julius Caesar and therefore could not survive without an unbelievably strong ensemble. There are so many characters in the world of this play and each is as strong as the next. While some of the more modern detail choices have a tendency to pull the audience briefly out of the world of the play, every moment on stage pulls the audience back in. If you’ve never seen Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar or have seen it countless times and want something fresh with a Kurosawa edge, then this is the production to see.

Review by Nigel Andrews

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