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Coriolanus

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 980

SHOWING : July 09, 2004 - August 08, 2004

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast John Dillon
Set Designer Paul Owen
Cast Klimchak
Coriolanus Saxon Palmer
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REVIEWS

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Shades of Gray
by Dedalus
Monday, July 12, 2004
3.0
“Coriolanus,” currently in Repertory at the Georgia Shakespeare Festival, is a well-conceived, timely production that unfortunately falls a bit short in its execution.

Let’s start with the obvious – “Coriolanus” is Shakespeare’s 2nd-longest play (only “Hamlet” is longer). It is filled with character and incident and nuance, much of it redundant and well-deserving trimming. The GSF production is about 2 ½ hours long, so, much much much has been left on the cutting room floor (on the library floor?). Normally, I would say this is good, but, in this case, it may have been a bit too much. Yes, the Act One battle is recounted in detail, but wouldn’t it have been a better choice to cut the “recounting” rather than the battle itself? Even with Shakespeare’s lovely language, a dramatically striking battle can convey more effectively the exposition required, than a long and eloquently presented monologue. And, minus this start, the audience is left floundering, wondering who these people are, and why they are so unwilling to compromise with each other.

Along these same lines, the tragic climax is sudden and rushed and totally lacking in emotional resonance. I’m not sure what was cut here (it has been several years since I’ve read the play), but it seems to me, a “mirroring” of the opening battle would have given it more heft.

I did like most of the cast. The non-traditional casting of Carolyn Cook as the tribune Sicinia Velutus was especially effective, as were Rosemary Prinz as Volumnia and Rob Cleveland is the other tribune. Chris Kayser was effective in the villain’s role, though he seemed to be saving a tad too much energy for his “Cyrano.” This, though, may again be the result of too much cutting. And, more unfortunately, I found Saxon Palmer in the title role to be, well, under-powering may be too strong a word (he did have some nice moments and always made interesting choices), but he definitely did not have the over-powering presence the part requires. Where I was expecting a larger-than-life figure whose pride was almost justified, what came across was more a feeling of petulance and snobbery. If it weren’t for his blood-red uniform, his first entrance would have been almost unnoticeable.

Which brings us to the conception. Set in a pre-fascist Italy, everything about the “world” of the production clicked. The set, beautifully constructed in shades of gray, was equally convincing as a patrician home and a crowded Roman working class street. The gray on gray costuming, broken by the vivid reds and greens of the Patrician soldiers, provided wonderful counterpoint to the “black and white” world-view of the characters. And the update clarified the political stakes as well as provided historical resonances that meshed perfectly with the play’s themes and conflicts. And, considering how polarizing our own society is growing in this election year, it is especially relevant to see the tragic consequences of refusing to see the shades of gray.

So, this is a production that should have worked, would have worked, if the title figured was a bit more larger-than-life, or if it would have started with a slam-bang battle scene. Still and all, it is a good introduction to one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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