2017 - Antony & Cleopatra

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
by William Shakespeare
Oct 19 - Nov 5, 2017 Circle Theatre
Directed by Ken Kelleher

One fateful meeting reshapes the ancient world when the great Roman warrior Mark Antony, like Caesar before him, falls in love with the incomparable Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. His devotion to desire rather than duty is the beginning of a downward spiral for him, the Republic and Cleopatra, the last in her bloodline. Shakespeare’s epic love story, set in modern day by director Kenneth Kelleher, presents history as a breathtaking pageant full of passion, intrigue, exotic locales and the larger-than-life characters that brought about the death of an Egyptian dynasty and the birth of the Roman Empire.


Love, jealousy, drama all on display in PacRep’s ‘Antony & Cleopatra’

Julie Hughett and Michael Storm sizzle in Shakespeare's 'Antony & Cleopatra' at the Circle Theatre in Carmel. Photo by Stephen Moorer.
By Barbara Rose Shuler, Monterey Herald
Posted: 10/25/17

 

Most of us have known couples who fight and then make up, oscillating obsessively between these two passions. This behavior usually doesn’t end well and can adversely impact others. Pacific Repertory Theatre’s latest production, directed by Kenneth Kelleher, gives an account of such a pair, whose epic clashes and sizzling ardor remain historically unrivaled.
When Roman general Mark Antony and Egyptian queen Cleopatra fought and made up, entire civilizations trembled. Shakespeare’s “Antony & Cleopatra” — a classic account of these titanic lovers, staged in Carmel’s Circle Theatre of the Golden Bough — features Michael Storm and Julie Hughett in the title roles.

Kelleher is a master director of Shakespeare. He’s a Rembrandt with a Shakespearian palate, as PacRep patrons know well. His creativity and imagination in finding fresh and enthralling ways to present these mighty plays seems boundless. He celebrates anachronism with Cyrano’s panache and probably deserves a theatrical Oscar for his ability to match these 400-year-old scripts with radically off-period eras and settings.
He challenges audiences with his artistic vision, like locating “Antony & Cleopatra” in the post-WWI American Jazz Age. But it works. And why not? We know jazz and recognize the dress style. Who wants to struggle to remember that Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus formed the Second Roman Triumvirate? Zzzzzz ... what? Or that long before Antony, Cleopatra had an affair in her twenties with Julius Caesar resulting in the birth of their son Caesarion. Or that a bunch of generals had it out for each other back then and one of them was named Pompey.
It might be worth noting that Cleopatra was the last of the great Egyptian rulers. Did you know she was of Greek-Macedonian origin? This period also marks the birth of the Roman Empire.
Our story begins with a short menacing prelude by Jeffrey Heyer as Antony’s friend Enobarbus, after which Hughett (bedecked in a toga-esque sheet) and Storm display their connubial appetites while the servants to Cleopatra sport languidly together. An old-time radio plays jazz favorites atop a cage that serves as Cleopatra’s bower.
Justin Gaudoin, her nattily dressed soothsayer and messenger, throws down Tarot cards. He’s the drama’s compelling harbinger of fate and distinguished vocalist of jazz tunes of the era. Smart use of talent.
Because Kelleher has a clever instinct for these things, we are willing to give up our image of Cleopatra as the blazing, golden diva queen of impossible riches and accept her in an art-deco slip on a minimalist stage wooing a blustery guy in a suit. Storm and Hughett fulfill the passion and pathos of these roles, the fiery intensity and jealousy of their personal intimacy, and the zealous statecraft demanded by their respective kingdoms.
Heyer, as Antony’s most loyal supporter, excels in the range and nuance of his performance. Jennifer Le Blanc appears as Cleopatra’s faithful servant Charmian and as Octavia, sister to Caesar, two opposite roles both skillfully executed.

Howard Burnham, as the triumvir Lepidus, portrays a bespectacled eminence grise, who becomes rather wonderfully unraveled in the drunk scene where the generals party in honor of whatever inebriated generals celebrate on such occasions, a truce most likely. Justin Gordon makes an aloof, intellectual Caesar, who removes his glasses in times of stress and appears harassed by the murky business of Roman affairs of state. Lewis Rhames makes a persuasive and aggressive Pompey, challenging the rule of the triumvirate. He also appears as a sepulchral attendant of Cleopatra’s.
Andrew Mazer deftly performs two key roles: Eros, friend to Antony and then a purveyor to Cleopatra in her final hour of need. Matt Pavellas, Garland Thompson and Michelle Vallentyne round out the ensemble with fine portrayals as servants and friends of the principals.

Kelleher’s early jazz soundtrack for this production is enthralling. With the exception of Cleopatra’s boudoir area, his set design remains spare. The actors use pillows and palm bark for a variety of purposes as the drama unfolds. Abra Berman’s costumes locate the spectacle visually in the flapper era, including the generals, who wear suits of the time and gun holsters. Michael Palumbo’s lighting design serves the action smartly.
Forget history. Don’t sweat the Shakespeare dialogue. Enjoy the Bard Kelleher-style — love, sex, blood, giggles, jealousy, drama, surprises and, best of all, Cleopatra!

Barbara Rose Shuler covers the classical music scene in Monterey County. Visit her website at www.barbarasbest.com. Reach the author at gocalendar@montereyherald.com

 


Anthony (Michael Storm) and Cleopatra (Julie Hughett), PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Agrippa (Matt Pavellas), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Alexas (Lewis Rhames), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer



Anthony (Michael Storm) and Maecenas (Garland Thompson), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Charmian (Jennifer LeBlanc), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Iras (Michelle Vallentyne), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Cleopatra (Julie Hughett) dreams of Anthony's return, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Cleopatra (Julie Hughett), Charmian (Jennifer LeBlanc) and Iras (Michelle Vallentyne meet Octavian Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Eros (Andrew Mazer), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Lepidus (Howard Burnham) Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Octavia (Jennifer LeBlanc) and Octavian Caesar (Justin Gordon), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Pompey's Woman (Michelle Vallentyne), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Soothsayer Mardian (Justin Gaudoin), Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

 

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) during invasion, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

 

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) protests, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) questions, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) dismayed, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) changes sides, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) regrets his choice, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) prologue, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) joshing with Anthony, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) drinks, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) kisses Fulvia goodbye, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer

Enobarbus (JTHeyer) armed for war, Anthony and Cleopatra, PacRep 2017, photo by Stephen Moorer