Thursday, August 16, 2007

Antony & Cleopatra

Last night was the perfect summer evening, stars and crickets in full force. It began with tender rack-of-lamb in Scott’s magical gazebo, and continued through a really silly production of Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare & Company, mostly made so by legendary Artistic Director Tina Packer’s gross miscasting of herself as the heroine. It wasn’t just Packer’s age—Shakespeare’s Cleopatra was at the end of her life, and in those days you were a Senior Citizen at forty—but moon-faced, pug-nosed, overblown, and wearing costumes that looked as if they were leftover from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she was hardly the Egyptian seductress who, in Plutarch 's account, once had herself delivered to Caesar’s bedroom rolled into a rug. Instead it was like watching Marc Antony make love to Puck’s grandmother. Then there were the tie-died soldiers’ uniforms (isn’t this a contradiction in terms?) and the really cheesy, very prickly-looking, gold metal wreath that Octavius Caesar (superbly played by Craig Baldwin) had to wear on his bald head. No wonder he kept taking it off. And did I mention the anachronistic sound of Velcro as battle garments were being removed? But the wonderful thing is that, despite all this ridiculousness, Shakespeare prevailed, and I was delighted just to sit there and absorb each perfectly-turned phrase as it washed over me. And while the love part was kept from ringing true, the futility of power struggles and the stupidity of war came through in full force, along with a poignant lesson in the fragility of human life. It makes me wonder, haven’t we learned anything since then? But then I remember how Shakespeare had to pass rows of severed heads on spikes on the London Bridge as he went to work every day, and I conclude that maybe we have learned something. Just not enough.

You can read two completely opposite reviews of this production in The Boston Globe and Variety.

No comments: