Sunday, August 29, 2010

Marin Shakespeare: "Antony & Cleopatra" ☼ ☼

Shakespeare did like his main characters to die slowly, and in "Antony & Cleopatra" both take nearly three hours to do the deed. The 2010 Marin Shakespeare Company production is the sequel to last year's "Julius Caesar," but where that was filled with action, this is longer and has more characters. Caesar figures in both, in the flesh last year, but only in memory this time around.

Marcia Pizzo's Cleopatra is exciting and girl-like when first we meet her, flushed with love for Marc Antony, who has left Rome after Caesar's death and settled in Alexandria with her. (There is the matter of his wife back home, and also of the other noble Romans, none of whom has slept with Cleopatra yet, except for Caesar himself, but he's dead, and maybe Pompey.) Pizzo plays Cleopatra like an oversexed teenager at the beginning, but as she matures we see a woman who -- well, she's not a teenager any more.

Marvin Greene's Marc Antony is a man whose judgement has been destroyed by his love. Of course, what would you do if your girl friend insisted on placing your armor over your private parts before she sent you out to battle? This Cleopatra is some dame. Once the greatest general of them all, Marc Antony now follows Cleopatra around like a tongue-lapping hound. They make not only love but war; even though she keeps betraying him by sailing away in her ships, he keeps accepting her apologies.

Stephen Klum is terrific as Enobarbus, as is William Elsman as Octavius Caesar, someone you'd love to hate, but you can't since he is obviously the only actor on the stage who gets to play someone with a brain. Also, he's taller than the rest of them.

It's always beautiful to laze away an afternoon in the amphitheater at Marin Shakespeare, watching people sitting on their rented seat cushions as the hawks and crows wheel overhead, actors in red and purple parade across the stage and Cleopatra and Marc Antony refuse to die until only a few moments before Taming of the Shrew comes on at 7pm.



The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards Marin Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" Two Stars. The Awards Committee has to admit it did not find Antony & Cleopatra nearly as engaging as Julius Caesar. There are no heroes in this play, no great immortal lines from the Bard (though Cleopatra does refer to her 'salad days'), and though the acting was fine and Leslie Schisgall Currier's direction crisp enough, in the end there are just too many arrogant Romans and sleazy Egyptians serving nobody you care about very much. And we all know that Alaric the Goth is waiting in the wings only a few hundred years down the pike and he, eager critic with a tight budget, will make the Romans die a lot faster.

Marin Shakespeare makes enjoying the Bard a lot of fun, with a lighthearted attitude and excellent core of performers. But we have now praised Caesar and buried him. Let's get down to MacBeth, Hamlet, Lear!

"Antony & Cleopatra"
Marin Shakespeare: Dominican University, Forest Meadows Amphitheatre
1475 Grand Avenue, San Rafael
Through Sept. 25

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