×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Julius Caesar

The true star of Shakespeare Festival/L.A.'s contempo version of "Julius Caesar" is the massive, many-staired expanse of downtown L.A.'s City Hall. Director Andrew Tsao stages the piece against the backdrop of the gigantic stone columns, which create an aura of power that engulfs the more-than-competent acting ensemble.

With:
Brutus - Rif Hutton Julius Caesar - Dakin Mathews Cassius - Robert Pescovitz Marc Antony - Tom Schanley Portia/Soothsayer/Strato - Nike Doukas Calpurnia/Soothsayer/ Octavius - Alicia Wollerton Casca - Clive Rosengren Poet/Messenger - Ryan Yu

The true star of Shakespeare Festival/L.A.’s contempo version of “Julius Caesar” is the massive, many-staired expanse of downtown L.A.’s City Hall. Director Andrew Tsao stages the piece against the backdrop of the gigantic stone columns, which create an aura of power that engulfs the more-than-competent acting ensemble — whose machinations often appear like the struttings of children compared to the immovable immensity surrounding them.

Effectively utilizing such modern-day trappings as TV cameras, rap, rock ‘n’ roll, fascist-like military attire (kudos to costumer Elizabeth Hope Clancy) and even the unscheduled, chaotic noises of the city (helicopters, ambulances, auto horns, etc.), Tsao keeps Shakespeare’s plot ever-present, imaginatively incorporating the dramatic natural entrances and exits provided by the stairs and columns.

Though the inconsistent sound system of Juvencio Segura occasionally plays havoc with the conversational flow, this is a worthy telling of the tale of all mighty Julius Caesar (Dakin Mathews), whose crushing victory over the armies of Pompeii leads to fear and distrust amongst his senators, lead by the petulant firebrand Cassius (Robert Pescovitz) and the philosophical but troubled Brutus (Rif Hutton).

The murder of Caesar unleashes the “dogs of war” and leads to the tragic bloodletting of these “honorable men” whose ideals and ambitions prove no match for the rage of Caesar’s allies, the manipulative Marc Antony (Tom Schanley) and Caesar’s adopted son, the coyly understated Octavius (Alicia Wollerton).

Mathews is a magnificently imperious Caesar, whose lofty station in life flows effortlessly over the heads of everyone about him. It is a telling moment when this regal figure is dragged down by men who are so much less than him. It is even more telling when Caesar’s silent ghost overpowers the doings of the mere mortals on stage.

Hutton is a striking figure as the ambivalent Brutus, who manages to show deep concern and respect for Caesar while plotting his death. Hutton is effective in his face-off with Marc Antony at Caesar’s eulogy when he justifies his actions (“not that I loved Caesar less but I loved Rome more”).

Pescovitz creates a quirky, almost endearingly distrustful Cassius but often allows the passion of his speeches to overwhelm his characterization.

Schanley exudes as much deviousness as love and sorrow in Antony’s actions to avenge the death of Caesar. He is remarkably cool and calculating as his Antony takes measure of the daggers that surround him at the murder scene. At the eulogy, he allows one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches to unfold at a deliciously casual pace, gradually escalating his fervor, quite believably inciting the riot that follows.

Lending solid support is Clive Rosengren’s humor-filled Casca, who manages to be droll even while plotting the death of Caesar. Also effective in roles that usually lend themselves more to angst than character are Nike Doukas as Brutus’ wife Portia and Wollerton as Calpurnia, the wife of Caesar. Wollerton, however, is later miscast as the young Octavius, who is supposed to embody the character traits that would eventually lead him to be victorious over all.

Popular on Variety

Julius Caesar

L.A. City Hall; 300 seats; $15 top

Production: Shakespeare Festival/L.A. presents a play (performed in two acts) by William Shakespeare. Directed by Andrew Tsao.

Creative: Scenic design, Karen TenEyck; costumes, Elizabeth Hope Clancy; lights, Bob Howell; sound, Juvencio Segura; fight director, Randy Kovitz. Opened July 11, 1998. Reviewed July 15. Runs until Aug. 2 (moves to South Coast Botanic Gardens, Palos Verdes, on July 23). Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Cast: Brutus - Rif Hutton Julius Caesar - Dakin Mathews Cassius - Robert Pescovitz Marc Antony - Tom Schanley Portia/Soothsayer/Strato - Nike Doukas Calpurnia/Soothsayer/ Octavius - Alicia Wollerton Casca - Clive Rosengren Poet/Messenger - Ryan YuOther Conspirators: Victor Buno, Jim Eusterman, John Jabaley, Julius Tennon

More Legit

  • Sophia Anne Caruso and Alex Brightman'Beetlejuice'

    How 'Beetlejuice: The Musical' Became a Broadway Turnaround Story

    Christopher Kuczewski is what you’d call a Netherling. It’s a reference to the netherworld inhabitants who populate “Beetlejuice: The Musical,” the off-beat adaptation of the 1988 hit film that’s becoming an unlikely Broadway turnaround story. And that designation, which has been given to superfans of the show, goes a long way towards explaining how a [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Touching the Void review

    West End Review: 'Touching the Void'

    It shouldn’t work. Attempting to make effective theatre out of scaling a mountain, facing disaster thousands of feet up in the freezing cold and enduring a drawn-out facedown with death is surely a preposterous idea. Yet that is exactly what playwright David Grieg and director Tom Morris and his ideally meshed creative team have done. [...]

  • Hangmen review play

    Martin McDonagh’s 'Hangmen' Coming to Broadway in 2020

    Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” will debut on Broadway this spring, the latest in a line of West End transfers to the Great White Way this year. The play, which focuses on the second-best executioner in Britain dealing with his government’s decision to abolish his favorite form of doing away with prisoners, will begin performances on Feb. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    Broadway Review: 'The Inheritance'

    The real hero of “The Inheritance,” Matthew Lopez’s thoughtful, moving and painfully funny play, is E.M. Forster, the celebrated English author of “Howards End,” “A Room with a View,” “A Passage to India,” and “Maurice,” that last a gay-themed novel published after his death in 1970. It’s quite the literary thrill to find the great [...]

  • Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works

    Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works as a Movie From Heyday, BBC Films

    David Heyman’s Heyday Films, whose credits include “Gravity,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story” and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, and BBC Films have secured the film rights to Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical “Follies.” “Follies” will be adapted for the screen and directed by Dominic Cooke, a four-time Olivier [...]

  • Tina Turner The Musical

    How 'Tina: The Tina Turner Musical' Tells the Icon's Traumatic Story

    It wasn’t the response Tali Pelman had hoped to receive. The group creative managing director of Stage Entertainment had traveled to Küsnacht, Switzerland, with one goal in mind: Convince Tina Turner that her life could be the stuff of a successful stage musical. “We walked in the door,” Pelman remembers. “Tina was already there, and she greeted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content