I have to be honest with you, this is not my first time with this particular production of "Antony and Cleopatra."
Under the masterful direction of Gloria Gifford, this very capable group of actors performed the tragedy late last year. So you could say this is a bit of an encore, urged on, no doubt, by the very warm reception of the original produciton.
I think it’s acceptable to quote oneself, so I will, from my previous review, and say that “Lets be absolutely clear here…this is not your grandma’s Shakespeare.”
Sure, it’s classically staged and the wardrobe is certainly period, especially for the ladies, and it runs fairly close to the RSC’s version coming in at a little over two hours, instead of the original text which is closer to four. But, that is where any real comparison to past traditional productions must end. This "Antony and Cleopatra" is a blend of the old and the new. The prose is rather magically interspersed with the kind of songs that rocked the world in the 70s…all soul and pain and heartbreak. The story is played out in the same order, with the same dramatic beats, but swathes of dialogue and exposition are replaced with gyrating soldiers, choruses of scantily clad slaves girls, and the occasional and quite lovely soaring sounds of a friendly eunuch. Tony and Cleo let loose themselves too of course, quite spectacularly, and it only seems to heighten the intensity of their relationship.
The players themselves commit completely to the radical retelling of this classic and far too infrequently staged play. Without their absolute belief, this daring kind of production would surely fall totally flat. But thankfully it does far, far from that.
The story of these two lovers is full of impending doom, violent ends, betrayal, obsession, unending loyalty and pointless sacrifice. So the melding of funky and soul music with their moments of high drama is, in the end, a bit on the brilliant side.
If you can wrap your head around what’s going on and why, and let go of your inhibitions as much as these talented actors do on stage then you are in for a real treat. The Rocky Horror Show meets the Bard, a full on rock out homage to the dangers of mixing politics with passion and trading honor for fame.
These iconic characters were daring, brutal and unapologetic when they lived.
They tore each other apart with their love and the world burned around them…Romeo and Juliet with nukes. Gloria Gifford’s rendering of Shakespeare’s "Antony and Cleopatra" is a flamboyant, furious and fabulous turn on the oldest of love stories…I highly recommend it.
Running from February 24 - March 18, Saturday at 8PM and Sundays at 7:30PM.
Gray Studios, 5250 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood, 91601
Cast (in alphabetical order)
George Benedict, Raven Bowens, Billy Budinich, Victor Carter, Marlin Chan, Leana Chavez, Haile D’Alan, Yvette DeVito, Sonia Diaz, Chad Doreck, Joshua Farmer, Joe Filippone, Irini Gerakas, Keturah Hamilton, Chris Jones, Naté Jones, Abigail Kochunas, Joey Marie, Christian Maltez, Sam Mansour, Kelly Musslewhite, Tracey Nelson, Benito Paje, Kasia Pilewicz, Lauren Plaxco, Antonio Roccucci, Cynthia San Luis, Danny Siegel, Tejah Signori, Samiyah Swann, Justin Truesdale, Nancy Vivar, Keith Walker, Lucy Walsh and Jade Warner.
Stage managers: Justin Truesdale, Keith Walker. Set design: Gloria Gifford. Costume design: Gloria Gifford, Kasia Pilewicz. Hair/Make-up: Kasia Pilewicz. Lighting technician: Chris Rivera.