SUBMIT ABOUT FAQ
PEOPLE COMPANIES VENUES
LOGIN NEW USER PRODUCTIONS
REVIEWERS SIX DEGREES
A User-Driven Site for Theater in Atlanta, Georgia
Antony and Cleopatra

a Drama
CATEGORY :
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4047

SHOWING : June 23, 2011 - July 23, 2011

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Politics and passions collide in Shakespeare's tragedy of the Roman warrior Marc Antony and the enigmatic Cleopatra. Having risen from the ashes of Caesar to become a great leader of the Republic, Antony falls victim to his pleasures and mad desire for the seductive Egyptian Queen, bringing Rome down with him and ushering in the Age of Empire. Associate Artist Tess Malis Kincaid stars as Cleopatra.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director John Dillon
Alexas Kyle Brumley
Domitius Enobarbus Allan Edwards
Scarrus/Sextus Pompeius Bruce Evers
Mardian Neal A Ghant
Mark Antony Chris Kayser
Cleopatra Tess Malis Kincaid
Marcus Lepidus Allen O'Reilly
Agrippa Brad Sherrill
Menas/Rustic Scott Warren
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Pride and Passion and Petulance (on Denial)
by Dedalus
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
3.0
Georgia Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” is a cold and passionless event that makes a number of questionable design choices, leaves too many of its cast stranded and flailing for a hint of character, and is far too unclear in its story and emotional trajectory. To be sure, the performance I saw was the last preview one day before opening night and some of my objections may disappear as the production “finds its feet” and begins its long repertory run. Still, the more egregious design choices seem to be “cast in sandstone,” so will remain despite the company’s best efforts.

All this being said, Tess Malis Kincaid’s Cleopatra is an outstanding creation, a woman of pride and power and the occasional bout of petulance, and she is never dull to watch or to hear.

Let me begin with the play itself. Never one of my favorites, it is, however, one of Shakespeare’s most epic. With over forty scenes, it zips from location to location, covering practically the entire Roman Empire, with dozens of speaking roles, and political factions that divide and combine and change with the slightest change in political fortune. The love story at its center has always struck me as coldly calculated – though we’re told about the passion these characters feel for each other, their scenes together are invariably cerebral and political. I’ve always found it, at root, a controlled telling of an uncontrollable relationship.

Playwright Amlin Gray has helped some with this particular adaptation – when we first meet Antony (Chris Kayser) and Cleopatra (Ms. Kincaid), they are in the throes of lovemaking, surrounded (of course) by the Egyptian Queen’s loyal ladies and eunuchs and retainers. Even once the story gets moving, their every scene, no matter how “thoughtful,” carries an almost palpable undercurrent of barely controlled lust. This is a mature couple still in the throes of adolescent longing – a longing they probably never experienced in their own adolescence – and this longing makes the “argument” of the play (there is no room in a political leader’s life for anything but control and dispassion) strong and clear.

On the other hand, the adaptation makes the questionable decision to make Antony’s friend Enobarbus a narrator of sorts. He sets up the scenes, describes the various factions, and helps us with all the thousand points of exposition we need to understand all the ebbs and flows of this story. Granted, such an “exposition aide” is welcome (almost required), but Enobarbus? Allan Edwards is nicely warm and inviting in the role, and does what he can with it, but he doesn’t seem to be the best choice. Considering the character eventually betrays Antony then disappears from the play, the narration also disappears just when we need it the most. I think a better choice would have been Agrippa (or one of the other Octavius allies who survive the play) – that would have given the whole thing the same “winner’s version of history” fell that Plutarch himself (Shakespeare’s primary source) indulged.

Another curious decision was the elimination of all the battle scenes, which not only drains the production of any sense of urgency (and energy), but also makes it fairly unclear exactly what has gone wrong, why the characters are propelled to their tragic dooms. The panoply of history (and this particular story) is writ large (and red) in blood and conflict, and to remove it from sight is to do that history a disservice, draining it of life and putting it on some sort of dry and dusty scholastic pedestal.

As to the design choices, the kaleidoscope of changing locales are all played on an elegantly designed unit set, multi-layered and abstract. Considering how much geography this play covers, that’s all to the good. If the design seems to suggest a spider more than the expected Egyptian scarab, well there are certainly thematic justifications for that choice. My only objection is that location is more vague, more a product of character than of plot, resulting in some confusion. Normally, the exact location wouldn’t be a major issue, but, too often, specific references in the dialogue seem to contradict what we assume based on the characters, and that becomes an enormous distraction.

I also strongly object to the choice to costume the Romans in 19th-Century European uniforms. Yes, it does a nice job of differentiating the Octavius faction (in red) and the Antony faction (in blue), but let us not forget that these factions are supposedly allies, all Romans, fighting a common enemy (at first). It just doesn’t make sense for them to look as if they are part of different armies. To make matters worse, once the common enemy (Pompey) finally appears, he’s dressed like the Antony faction, so, unless you know the play, you have no idea who he is or what he’s doing there (he is not addressed by name in his first scene). Then, when Antony (and some others) don some medieval-looking armour later in the play, well, it just looks plain silly.

When all is said and done, though, this is really Cleopatra’s play, and Tess Malis Kincaid brings all her formidable skills to bear. She runs the full gamut of emotions from regal forcefulness to kittenish flirtation, from petulant tantrum to soaring splendor. She commands the stage from her first lustful groan to her last dying gasp. She is the engine that makes this barge float, and to watch her is to watch an actress at the peak of her glory.

So memorable is she, in fact, that the rest of the cast literally fades into the background. Chris Kayser brings his normal skill to his lines and manner, but his Antony is essentially a shallow creation, failing to reach martial glory status in the opening scenes, lost in Cleopatra’s shadow as the story concludes. Joe Knezevich’s Octavius Caesar is not the regal focused man apart, but a hollow antagonist, a puppet ruler seemingly pulled by the strings of Mr. Gray’s adaptation. All the other actors and characters blend together in a hopeless mish-mash of function and language, none staking a corner of individuality, none suggesting anything deeper than their mere plot function. To be fair, I fully expect these performance issues to vanish as the run continues, as the actors get more comfortable with their lines and characters, but, for now, they are an issue.

I’ve always seen “Antony and Cleopatra” as a play centered on denial (pun intended). These are two great leaders who won’t admit to themselves their co-dependency, the true depth of how their whirlwind passion corrupts their leadership and decision-making. It’s almost as if denial is a “fatal flaw” that leads them to their inevitable doom. Unfortunately, the performance I saw on Preview night was a production “not ready for prime time,” carrying its on production-denial. It was a lackluster affair ham-stringed by an ineffective adaptation, a ham-handed costume plot, and, Ms. Kincaid aside, a collection of performances that could have used a little more hamminess and spark.

But then, there’s Tess Malis Kincaid. If ever there was a performance to inspire the obsessive passion of the most sober conqueror, this is it. She is now and forever a Cleopatra to remember.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Static Without Electricity
by playgoer
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
2.5
"Antony and Cleopatra" is not one of Shakespeare's plays that is done frequently. Georgia Shakespeare's production makes it clear why that is the case. This is not a riveting play. It seems more to be a sequel to "Julius Caesar" and a history lesson than a human drama.

Director John Dillon's staging does nothing to disguise the dryness of the script. Most scenes consist of actors coming onstage, arranging themselves into a pleasing stage picture, and playing the scene. Lines are often spoken as actors come on, to keep the play moving, but the scenes themselves tend to be static exchanges of lines.

The play starts poorly, with Allan Edwards' Enobarbus narrating the backstory in a couple of spotlit sections of the stage. His speech has no urgency, and the impression is that of a long-winded history professor boring his class. The events he narrates (Julius Caesar's death, Antony and Cleopatra's first encounter) could easily have been enhanced with upstage or shadow play enacting his words. Instead, he prated on, and I began to dread his appearances onstage.

The set by Kat Conley is faux marble and sculptural metal, with a fabric orb above that can be lit to portray the moon, along with twin staircases and a gauze-curtained area under an upper level. It's a particularly cold-looking set, so it adds no warmth to the proceedings. It's most effective when Cleopatra is in her monument on the upper level, the staircases swiveled away, and the dying Antony is hoisted with fabric to her side.

Sydney Roberts' costumes seem to mix Napoleonic-era military garb with vaguely oriental, flowing costumes for the Egyptian court. Egyptian headgear is the only nod to the time period of the play. It's an attractive costume plot with visual appeal, but it doesn't add any particular texture to the play. There's a contrast between the uniformed formality of the Romans and the looser garments of the Egyptians, but in terms of Shakespeare's words it's Cleopatra who compares herself to cold marble, and it's Antony who seems most caught up in passion, so the costuming works at cross-purposes to the script.

The acting is almost universally good. The one exception is Caitlin McWethy as Charmian. Her projection is good, but her line readings often come across as flat. When she uttered "Oh, Eastern Star" during Cleopatra's demise, the intonation was more in keeping to a delayed response to the question "What's a Masonic-like fraternal organization that admits women" than to the death of her monarch. It deflated the moment.

I was impressed by interns Kyle Brumley (Alexas) and Elizabeth Lanier (Iras). I enjoyed their performances, but it wasn't until I looked them up in the program at intermission that I realized they were "only" interns. They certainly held their own. The only performance that ever caught fire, though, was that of Chris Kayser as Antony, for one emotionally charged scene after the intermission. That one electric scene was of the quality I expect from Georgia Shakespeare. But five minutes of excellence in a nearly three-hour production really isn't enough to carry the play. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

OPENING SOON
On The Light Side: The Golden Age of Broadway
Capitol City Opera Company
Totally 80s Totally Murder
by The Murder Mystery Company
The Murder Mystery Company Atlanta
CLOSING SOON
On The Light Side: The Golden Age of Broadway
Capitol City Opera Company
Tapas, Steady as She Goes
by Bray, Steadman, Preuss, Hursey, Mullen, OConnel,and Robert
Academy Theatre
Totally 80s Totally Murder
by The Murder Mystery Company
The Murder Mystery Company Atlanta
NOW PLAYING
Jesus Christ Superstar
by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
ACT1
Murder and Stranger Things
by John Babcock
Agathas: A Taste of Mystery
Tapas, Steady as She Goes
by Bray, Steadman, Preuss, Hursey, Mullen, OConnel,and Robert
Academy Theatre
Totally 80s Totally Murder
by The Murder Mystery Company
The Murder Mystery Company Atlanta

©2012 TheaterReview.com. All rights reserved.