Munby’s contemporary setting of this classic William Shakespeare drama is a masterful adaptation of The Bard’s centuries-old tale of political power struggles and betrayal brought to modern day realization.
With a stunning set designed by Alexander Dodge, who is also new to CST, this show is visually riveting from beginning to end.
The show opens with Romans taking to the streets in celebration of Julius Caesar’s return from a triumphant victory over Pompey. This current-day street scene takes on all the fanfare of a modern day crowd of revelers, replete with campaign victory signs, hot dog vendors, skateboarders, giant foam fingers and stadium-style sellers of “Victory Beer.” We even see a jubilant flash mob break out into a line dance.
It is a seemingly joyous time in Rome, but there is trouble afoot.
Although the people want to declare Caesar their king, in this republic no one man is allowed to rule. The senators, led by Calius Cassius, played by an obviously motivated Jason Kolotouros, develop a plan to kill the man before he can take the crown the people have thrust upon him.
But, they need to enlist Marcus Brutus, stunningly portrayed by John Light, as an ally in their plot. In this version, Brutus turns somewhat easily on his leader and joins the pack of murderers for what they believe is the good of country.
Caesar’s remaining ally, Marc Anthony, played with great strength by Dion Johnstone, pretends to join the conspirators, but in his brilliant speech to the people, shows us the power words bring to the world stage.
In the tumultuous second act we see what the turmoil of change and struggle for power brings to relationships, a country and a world.
Not to be underestimated is the strength and compassion of women, which are brilliantly demonstrated in the roles Portia (Brenda Barrie), wife of Brutus ; Calphurnia (Barbara E. Robertson), wife of Caesar; and a soothsayer (McKinley Carter). The power-seeking men in this Shakespeare classic unwisely pay no heed to their warnings.
This Shakespeare play is a cautionary tale, one that is as relevant today as it was when it was written several hundred years ago. This production, a visually exciting and often painful look at the world today, is highly recommended.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Julius Caesar” runs through March 24 in CST’s Courtyard Theater. For information and tickets visit the theater website or call 312-595-5600.