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Coriolanus

a Tragedy
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 3743

SHOWING : June 05, 2010 - June 27, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Forced into the Senate by his overbearing mother, the Achilles-like Coriolanus does nothing to hide his disdain for democracy, which works against him as Rome’s leader. His citizens are hungry and manipulated by ambitious politicians; his Senate peers are weak in standing up to the citizens.
Eventually banished by his own people, this God of War does the only thing he knows to do: lead his own enemy’s army to kill the very people he serves. Shakespeare’s tale of extreme betrayal is also one of his bloodiest and most political tragedies.
Join the New American Shakespeare Tavern as we explore this grand-scale story of militaristic pride, maternal influence and knowing who’s got your back. Literally.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jeff Watkins
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Not that he loved Rome less, but that he loved himself more
by Lady Mac
Friday, June 18, 2010
3.5
Most people have neither read nor seen a production of “Coriolanus,” but much of it seems familiar. The strongest resemblance is to “Julius Caesar,” particularly with the theme of manipulating (and disdaining) the masses and the question of one’s loyalty to his country – and both are set in Rome. But the play also is eerily similar to modern times and makes you believe that politics – and politicians – are about the same today as hundreds of years ago.

The difference between Coriolanus and other politicians (plus some of Shakespeare’s other master manipulators, like Iago in “Othello”) is that he is not the baby-kissing, glad-handing sort. His ego and pride preclude him from even making a tiny attempt to hide his disgust for the commoners, and the plot revolves around this stubborn arrogance.

The Shakespeare Tavern brushes the dust off this play and staffs it with a very capable, believable and compelling cast. As one of the only people in the nation who found the movie “Gladiator” completely boring – mostly because of the long geo-political speeches about (oddly enough, again) Rome – I was at risk of nodding off during some of the politics in this play, but the cast brought the characters (likeable and otherwise) to life and kept my attention.

Joanna Daniel, as Coriolanus’ extremely influential mother (to say the least), is part Medea, part PR professional/“spin doctor” and part guidance counselor. Not a lot about the character screams out “dear, sweet mom,” as she revels in disturbing glee at the thought that her son could be maimed in the war and thus return home a hero. (Not exactly a Hallmark card in the making.) Daniel is magnificent -- and spooky.

Besides the relationship between the mama’s boy and his mama, the second-most-interesting relationship is between Coriolanus and his archenemy, Tullus Aufidius. J.C. Long (Coriolanus) and Andrew Houchins (Aufidius) give new meaning to the “thin line between love and hate.” Even as he dreams of slaying his own personal supervillain, Coriolanus waxes rhapsodic about Aufidius’ skill and almost idolizes him. Aufidius is primarily in the hate camp, and his motives and attitude are more difficult to read. Still, there are times when there seems to be an equal chance that one will murder the other or that they will go out for beers.

The play often seems to support Coriolanus’ intense snobbery and low opinion of the lower class. I hope that, if the “groundlings” of Shakespeare’s day ever saw this play performed, they were as dimwitted, indecisive, capricious and easily swayed as they are portrayed. Otherwise, they would have been incredibly offended.

The cast was excellent, but the play was a bit unsatisfying, especially in comparison with Shakespeare’s classics. Coriolanus comes across as a self-centered jerk who gets away with murder. Many of us have had co-workers like him – those who create havoc for all around them but who somehow manage to escape any blame. In “Coriolanus,” his friends – about to be under siege at his hands – blame others in Rome for forcing him to act like that. OK, then…

Perhaps it was just me, but one character vanished without a trace somewhere along the way. If this were on DVD, I’d check the deleted scenes to see what became of poor Titus Lartius (Matt Nitchie), whose fate surely lay on the cutting-room floor. Again, this may have been explained at some point (perhaps during one of my mini-zone-outs in the less-exciting political chatter), but the quick-change multipurpose-actors method did me, at least, a slight disservice in this play, as I had a little trouble keeping up with some of the role recycling.

The ending was probably the least satisfying part of the play. It felt abrupt, as though Shakespeare got tired and wanted to wrap it up quickly. The actions by some characters at the end are also quite weird and tough to reconcile with all that has gone before. It left me with a “that’s it?” sort of reaction.

Despite its shortcomings (the play, not the performance), “Coriolanus” is a well-acted and “limited-edition” piece of Shakespeare that is not to be missed by anyone serious about getting the full Bard experience. It’s also bound to be a hit with those who are interested in politics as well as psychology buffs. Sigmund Freud definitely would have had some fun with Coriolanus!
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