Julius Caesar

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By William Shakespeare.caesar99

Directed and Adapted by Michael Halberstam

and Scott Parkinson.

At Writers Theatre, Glencoe.

Condensed yet powerful adaptation of The Bard’s political masterclass riveting drama.

Scott Parkinson, the expert Shakespearean actor and director Michael Halberstam have teamed by to adapt a slick, moving yet powerful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius  Caesar. This  105 minute political tragedy slices the story of all its extras as it still carries the philosophical dilemmas that haunt the leaders of the Roman democracy. Fear of what could happen fuels a select group of Senators to plot how to deal with Caesar’s popularity.

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Lead by Cassius (the riveting sly Scott Parkinson) and his friend Brutus ( the understated Kareem Bandealy), these two concerned Roman patriots fear for Caesar’s megalomania as the Roman crowds cheer.  Julius Caesar (the commanding and charismatic Madrid St. Angelo) is enjoying the fame and accolades due him from his many successful conquests.  Yet he dismissed a Soothsayer (Arya Daire) who warns Caesar “Beware  the Ides of March!”

The plot thickens as Cassius sways Brutus, Caius Ligarius (Matt Hawkins) and Caska (Julian Parker) to take the ultimate resolution to stop Caesar from becoming king.  The assassination was vividly presented with red lighting and haunting sounds (lighting by Jesse Klug  and sound by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen). This has been buildup by the discourse between Cassius and Brutus. We do hear the obligatory Et tu, Brute? uttered by a dying Caesar.

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Brutus delivers an oration defending his actions, and for the moment, the crowd is on his side. However, Mark Antony ( the impressive turn by Thomas Vincent Kelly), with a subtle yet moving speech over Caesar’s corpse—beginning with the much-quoted “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears—deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the common people, in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus’s speech, yet there is method in his rhetorical speech and gestures: he reminds them of the good Caesar had done for Rome, his sympathy with the poor, and his refusal of the crown, thus questioning Brutus’ claim of Caesar’s ambition; he shows Caesar’s bloody, lifeless body to the crowd to have them shed tears and gain sympathy for their fallen hero; and he reads Caesar’s will, in which every Roman citizen would receive 75 drachmas. Antony, even as he states his intentions against it, rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome.

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The movement toward the resultant battles were a tad unclear as the edits contributed to battle scenes that pitted  Mark Anthony and Octavius (Sydney Germaine) against Cassius and Brutus. The tragic scenes between these two patriots defines ‘honorable men.’

This production worked as a one-act as the tension and emotions kept building. The young cast of  nine divergent racial, ethnic and genders players worked effectively giving diversity and experience to a wider fields of actors. Scott Parkinson and Madrid St. Angelo were particularly fine. Both newbies to Julius Caesar and veterans to The Bard’s work will find much to be impressed with here.

Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: September 14, 2016.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the Julius Caesar page at theatreinchicago.com.

At Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor court, Glencoe, IL, call 847-242-6000, www.writerstheatre.org, tickets $35 – $80, Tuesdays -Fridays at7:30 pm,  3 & 7:30 pm on Saturdays, 2 & 6 pm on Sundays, running time is 1hour, 45 minutes without intermission, through October 16, 2016.

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