frontmezzjunkies reviews: Julius Caesar at The Public’s free Shakespeare in the Park

Julius Caesar: Foolish Protesters Need To Read The Play


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Julius Caesar: Foolish Protesters Need To Read The Play

By Ross

There has been a great deal of ranting and raving, screaming and shouting going on by the Right about the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar since opening night. They have started to gather outside during performances, chanting and yelling their complaints. A few days ago, the Public Theatre stated on Twitter: “a pair of paid protestors briefly disrupted our performance” rushing on stage and getting arrested. Julius Caesar, if you didn’t hear, as played by the fine actor, Gregg Henry, is fashioned after our current President, who will be referred to within the rest of this piece as #TheOrangeOne (my polite term for him). Tina Benko (Broadway’s The Crucible) is hilariously expert as the Melania-like wife of Caesar, Calpurnia. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I am not one of the offended nor am I one of his loyal fans. For many reasons. I don’t support the man, but I also know the value of theatre, especially theatre companies like the Public. Theatre should be provocative and challenging to our mind and our senses. This is what it is and should always be; questioning the status quo and the political and social world we live in.
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Tina Benko, Gregg Henry.
On that note, I’m not sure I find director Oskar Eustis’s stylistic choices all that provocative, just obvious. I guess it is shocking to some, but in many ways, if you really study the text of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar two things are perfectly clear. The first is that Caesar as described by Shakespeare is pretty much #TheOrangeOne: cocky, arrogant, narcissistic, and paranoid. The situation in Rome, is also strikingly familiar to Washingon, D.C. today, with the often asked questions: should we embrace or be afraid of this new political era? Has the country gone off track and is this really the man to be trusted with its survival? Does the Senate have the ability to protect democracy if Caesar starts to act like a King rather than an elected leader? So it makes sense that in our political climate that Eustis would style the production around such a large and current public figure. These questions of danger are the same. These personal characteristics are similar, although, to be clear, our current President would never refuse any crown being offered like the one thrice offered to Caesar by Mark Antony, gloriously played by Elizabeth Marvel (Public’s The Book of Grace). Caesar is said to not be ambitious.  That is definitely not how one would describe our current leader. Marvel, reminding me of the loyal Ivanka, is exactly that, a marvel with a southern senator’s drawl with an astounding ability to whip a crowd into a frenzy using every tactic available in her magnificent funeral oration, including alternate facts. (for the full review, click here)
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Gregg Henry, Elizabeth Marvel.
Posted on June 17, 2017