Saturday, September 12, 2009

When Comes Such Another?


Star City Blog Review of Flatwater’s Julius Caesar
by Sarah F. Sullivan, September 11, 2009.

Flatwater Shakespeare is closing out its fifth season with William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and what a strong end to an equally strong season. Directed by Bob Hall, Shakespeare’s classic play about envy and loyalty amidst the political spectrum of Rome unfolded smoothly in The Swan Theatre at Wyuka beneath a cool September sky.

The play revolves around Caesar and the men he calls friends, who later kill him out of envy and fear that he will destroy Rome with his “ambition.” All but Brutus, who does everything for the benefit of Rome, have their own interests at heart. Hoping to put an end to Caesar’s inevitable tyranny by murdering him, the conspirators destroy the peace they had hoped to bring forth with the murder.

Gone were the stereotypical robes and costumes of Shakespeare, which were replaced by sharp black suits, fedoras and, eventually, military fatigues and berets. Adapting a Shakespeare play for a modern setting is a difficult undertaking, one that has both triumphed (Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet) and failed abysmally (Hamlet, 2000, featuring Ethan Hawke). While both movies place Shakespeare in the year in which they were filmed, Hall’s Julius Caesar has an ageless air about it, seemingly drawing elements from many time periods.

Though Caesar is only present for the first half of the play, Dick Nielsen delivers with intense strength -- a necessity for Caesar to remain at the forefront of everyone’s minds as the play goes forward.

Despite the play being called Julius Caesar, it is the characters of Mark Antony, Cassius and Brutus that carry it to its fruition and the actors do so with passion and depth. Nathan Weiss as conspirator Cassius plays his part with a fiery flourish, exemplifying Caesar’s words, “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look” (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2). While he delivers his lines with ease and believable rancor, Weiss is also able to tone down and dispense concern and kindness as well.

Mark Antony rises from being Caesar’s right hand man to show his true colors as an adept politician, willing and able to turn people to his side by tailoring his words to suit his various audiences. By the time Rob Burt (Mark Antony) comes to the forefront (not until the middle of the play), he gives an exciting and passionate performance that will likely surprise the audience.

Brad Boesen as conspirator Brutus truly shines. The part of Brutus is a tricky one, as we see the fine line he walks between justification for the good of Rome and the guilt of betrayal. The intimacy of the Swan Theater was perfectly suited to Boesen’s performance, as the reflective and tortured elements he brings to his character would be lost in a larger performance space.

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery is without a doubt one of the most unique theatre spaces in Lincoln. The close quarters and ever visible night sky only enhanced the mood of Julius Caesar, providing an eerie setting for the devious plotting and betrayal onstage. The set, the costumes, the actors and of course, Shakespeare’s play, all combine together to create a truly mesmerizing night of theatre.

Flatwater Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar

Directed by Bob Hall

Swan Theatre, Wyuka Cemetery, 3600 O Street in Lincoln

7:30 tonight and Sunday,
also Thursdays-Sundays September 17-20 and 24-27

Tickets: $18, $15 seniors, $10 students; Call 473-2897


Photo: Rob Burt as Antony in Flatwater Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Photo by John Nollendorfs.

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