You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Julius Caesar

Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee's ode to ennui, "Is That All There Is."

With:
Mark Anthony - James Waterston Marcus Brutus - Jim True-Frost Julius Caesar - Thomas Derrah Cassius - Mark L. Montgomery Octavius - Thomas Kelley Portia, Calpurnia - Sara Kathryn Bakker Cinna - Perry Jackson Lepidus - Will LeBow Cicero - Jeremy Geidt Decius Brutus - Neil Patrick Stewart Casca - Remo Airaldi Trebonius - Daniel Le cq Soothsayer - Kunal Prasad Metellus Cimber - Gardiner Comfort Lucius - Jared Craig

Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on in the Bard’s Ancient Rome are simply a dream had by Brutus’ slave boy, Lucius.

Think David Lynch ambiguity, Richard Kelly’s surreal style, Kennedy-era fashion and the monochromes and cigarettes of TV’s “Mad Men” and you have some idea of this cold and oh-so-cool dreamscape. While it’s intriguing to thematically contemplate (briefly) and be visually intrigued (for a bit longer), the glacially paced production soon falls into the style-over-substance category of theatrical indulgences often in evidence at risk-taking theaters like ART.

Designer Riccardo Hernandez creates some startling images on ART’s epic stage that will look good as photographs on its theater lobby wall. But they belie the work’s smug tedium and fuzzy thinking.

Nauzyciel takes the richness of Shakespeare’s somnambulant imagery (“Didst though dream, Lucius? “I would it were my fault to sleep so soundly.” “Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber”)  and creates a premise that is tenuous, inconsistent and dramatically comatose.

In a work filled with some of the Bard’s best speeches, the characters are removed from their words and remote from each other. When Cassius (Mark L. Montgomery) woos Marcus Brutus (Jim True-Frost) over to his conspiratorial cause, both actors are on opposite sides of the stage, giving their words a presentational style and robbing the language of its richness, subtlety and humanity.

The dialogue is given almost a hipster’s stream-of-consciousness riff, disconnected from meaning and more focused on poses than people. Both men fail to tap into their character’s complex torment, appearing simply distant and dull. Likewise, Portia and Calpurnia (Sara Kathryn Bakker) are played interchangeably by the same actress as bloodless Hitchcock blondes.

Sometimes the text’s power breaks through despite directorial intent, notably in the funeral oration by Mark Antony (James Waterston, hardly dynamic but at least semi-human), and Remo Airaldi slips in some real fear, paranoia and rage as Casca. But Thomas Derrah’s Caesar is a shallow, champagne-loving leader in love with his own celebrity, and the Soothsayer (Kunal Prasad) is one bad beatnik joke.

The dreaming slave boy Lucius is played by a sweet and silent Jared Craig — oh, did we mention he’s also a mute, giving his speeches in sign language? Shakespeare’s songs for the boy are replaced by a jazz combo in the corner of the stage, performing songs with lyrics of leaden irony. (“The Party’s Over” ends the corpse-ridden play as the cast then breaks out into a wild dance in the afterlife.)

Design team fulfills the assignment to create an arthouse environment: James Schuette designed the early ’60s costumes, and Scott Zielinski’s lighting goes from ambient dim to the harsh glare of arena spotlights. Hernandez pulls an 11 o’clock effect by having an automobile descend hood-down — only Freud knows why — slowly, creekily, from the flies to the stage just as the final body count begins towards the conclusion of this production, which is bad dream, bad accident.

Julius Caesar

Production: An American Repertory Theater presentation of a play in two acts by William Shakespeare. Directed by Arthur Nauzyciel. Set, Riccardo Hernandez; costumes, James Schuette; lighting, Scott Zielinski; sound, David Remedios production stage manager, Chris De Camillis. Opened, reviewed Feb. 13, 2008. Runs through March 16. Running time: 3 HOURS, 15 MIN. Musicians: Eric Hofbauer, Blake Newman, Mariane Solivan.

Creative: Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, Mass.; 556 seats; $79 top

Cast: Mark Anthony - James Waterston Marcus Brutus - Jim True-Frost Julius Caesar - Thomas Derrah Cassius - Mark L. Montgomery Octavius - Thomas Kelley Portia, Calpurnia - Sara Kathryn Bakker Cinna - Perry Jackson Lepidus - Will LeBow Cicero - Jeremy Geidt Decius Brutus - Neil Patrick Stewart Casca - Remo Airaldi Trebonius - Daniel Le cq Soothsayer - Kunal Prasad Metellus Cimber - Gardiner Comfort Lucius - Jared Craig

More Legit

  • Michael Jackson Musical Coming to Broadway

    Michael Jackson Musical Coming to Broadway in 2020

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

  • Watch Tom Hanks Vamp on Stage

    Watch Tom Hanks Vamp on Stage to Calm His 'Henry IV' Audience

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

  • Donald Trump, Robert De Niro

    Trump Punches Back at Robert De Niro: 'A Very Low IQ Individual'

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

  • Matt Bomer Andrew Rannells

    Stagecraft Podcast: Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells on Broadway's 'Boys in the Band'

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

  • Bruce Springsteen72nd Annual Tony Awards, Show,

    Tony Awards: Everything You Didn't See on TV

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

  • Tina Fey72nd Annual Tony Awards, Show,

    Tony Awards: The Night’s Biggest Snubs and Surprises

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

  • Amy Schumer introduces a performance by

    Tony Awards: Amy Schumer Calls 'My Fair Lady's' Henry Higgins a Mansplainer

    Prior to the second act of the American Repertory Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan sings Peggy Lee’s ode to ennui, “Is That All There Is.” The song could be speaking for the audience in response to French helmer Arthur Nauzyciel’s bold, bewildering and single-minded concept: that the entire goings- on […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content