Enter ancient history with “Caesar and Cleopatra”

Nov. 16, 2023, 7:43 p.m. | By Josey Merolli | 6 months, 1 week ago

Explore romance and tragedy in Blair Theatre’s latest production

Combining two iconic Shakespeare plays, “Julius Caesar” and “Antony and Cleopatra,” Blair’s latest production was an action-packed and entertaining adaptation. When the lights dimmed, there was little exposition before conspiracy began. 

The first act was an abridged version of “Julius Caesar,” beginning with characters Brutus (Navek Leonard/Elena Hundertmark) and Cassius (Riley MacArthur/Aurelia Smith) deciding that charismatic Roman leader Caesar (Lilia Lash/Mars Moreno) has become too powerful. As Brutus, a close friend of Caesar's, Leonard and Hundertmark played his conflicting emotions about Caesar perfectly, pacing about the stage.

Brutus and Cassius conspired with a group of other senators to assassinate Caesar on the fifteenth of March, known as the Ides of March. After killing Caesar, the senators washed their hands in his blood, cleverly represented in Blair’s production by knots of bright red yarn. Following the death of Caesar, they foolishly allowed one of his allies, Mark Antony (Ryan McGaskey/Sela Colavito), to speak at his funeral. In an iconic Shakespeare speech, Antony riled up the Romans. Antony’s speech is a highlight of the Blair production. As McGaskey and Colavito held up Caesar’s bloody clothes, the ensemble of Romans surrounding Antony gasped and exclaimed. 

In "Caesar and Cleopatra," senators gather around a murdered Julius Caesar. Photo courtesy of Hannah Hekhuis.

The Romans decided to seek out Caesar’s killers to exact their revenge. While the killers ran from the riots, Antony joined forces with Octavius (Ari Joshi/Elia Silbey), Caesar’s heir. During the battle between Caesar’s allies and killers, the entire stage was lit red, and fights choreographed by sophomore Siri Laney, played out dramatically, fog seeping in from the edges of the stage. Brutus and Cassius died in battle, leaving Antony and Octavius as the leaders of Rome.

In the second act, “Antony and Cleopatra” hit the stage, and the cast of characters, along with the set, changed. The once bare stage was filled with couches where Egyptians drank and danced around. Antony (V Mather/Kieran Allan-Hadley) was spending much of his time in Egypt with Queen Cleopatra (Susae Shiferaw-Uzman/Malaika Wande), whom he fell in love with, neglecting his duties as a leader of Rome. Octavius grew bitter and the rivalry between him and Antony tragically played out on Blair’s stage. 

Though both plays are tragedies, they were not without moments of comic relief. Antony and Octavius’ ally Lepidus (June Kepka/Donnie Allen) stumbled off the stage following a drunken conversation about Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship. Cleopatra’s poor servant Diomedes (Abi Torres/Ben Kirby) exaggeratedly cowered and cringed when speaking to her, as, depending on the news he had for her, could receive gold or the result of her rage. 

In addition to the hard work of the actors, the production was made even better with the help of the stage crew. The impressive set, a large platform with columns painted to resemble marble, required little modification between acts to resemble both Ancient Egypt and Rome. The music and lighting elevated the emotion of every scene, like the dramatic moments of Caesar’s death. 

“Caesar and Cleopatra” was unique and action-packed, and the hard work of all those involved was evident in the great production they put together. Make sure to support Blair Theatre and check it out next week.

"Caesar and Cleopatra" has three more performances: 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18. Tickets can be purchased here.

Last updated: Nov. 17, 2023, 8:18 a.m.

Josey Merolli. Hey, I'm Josey (she/her) and I'm entertainment editor! More »

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