Monday, January 23, 2012

Review of Julius Caesar by the Acting Company at the Guthrie theater

Quote of the Day:  Some memorable ones from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, playing at the Guthrie through Feb. 5, with a stop in Brainerd on Feb. 8, at the Chalberg Theatre.

Beware the Ides of March

Et tu Brute

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.

But, for my part, it was Greek to me.

Cry, Havoc, and let slip the hounds of war!

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.

As he was valiant, I honour him; But, as he was ambitious, I slew him.

Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me that men should fear; That seeing death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.

The Acting Company from New York partnered for the fourth year with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to launch the tour of Julius Caesar and The Comedy of Errors. The same company and actors put on both shows and tour them around the country. If they're coming anywhere near you, go. This is not your high school experience of this classic play. It is moderized. As we wait for the show to start, we watch a panel of about 24 tv screens of various news casts, but we don't hear what they say. Instead, eerie music is playing and we get a sense of doom. The actors are dressed in dark color, black is the dominant color, with sometimes grey and deep, blood red. The screens change and we are shown the monuments in Washington, D.C. The actors wear suits of today's politicians. It is no accident that Julius Caesar and his wife bear a striking resemblance to President Barack and Michelle Obama. In fact, my son and I had a discussion about whose silhouette was in the screen, our current president, or the actor who portrayed Caesar. Zach noticed that they picked an actor who looks like a leader, tall, long face, strong jaw.

I enjoyed seeing some women playing traditionally men's parts in a Shakespeare play that originally would have had men playing the few women's roles. With this modern setting, movable set, contemporary props, and inner city music, it made the play relevant to today's world. And, through their amazing talent and training, these actors rattle off original Shakespeare dialogue like it's their regular, everyday language. They know how to emphasize the right words to help us understand the meaning and enhance it with their actions.

This is a violent show, about assassination, conspiracy, power, and ultimate destruction of the leaders of the Coup d'etat. Power gained by violence is doomed for failure.

Zach, who is 14, seemed to understand the entire play. We talked about it for a while afterwards. He remembered scenes, asked me a few questions, and cleared up some that I had. Because it is so well acted and staged, it is accessible to teens on up. Check out the links above for showtimes near you. This is one of the most unique theater productions that I've ever experienced.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Did you study Julius Caesar in school? How did it go? Have you ever seen a professional company perform Shakespeare? Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?

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