Trial by Fire's inaugural project, Antony and Cleopatra, marks an auspicious beginning for the talented classical ensemble. Seen less frequently than many of the Bard's other tragedies, the mingling of love and politics, lust and tragedy, triumph and defeat offers a wealth of acting opportunities ¯ ably realized by director Jason King Jones and his lively cast. The intimate confines of Expanded Arts exploded with fast-paced action and passion, assisted by only the most limited scenic and lighting devices. Director Jones utilized every available inch of space, creating interesting tableaus from the staircase and balcony. The audience was seated just inches from the stage, and what was lost in aesthetic distance was more than compensated for by the immediacy of the action. Matt Gordon's fine swordplay was even more exciting at close range. The only thing lacking was the absence of stage blood - the corpses looked a bit too pristine.
Roman leader Marc Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, enjoyed a love affair lasting over two decades, punctuated by battles, long absences, and Marc Antony's marriage to Octavia, the sister of the victorious Octavius Caesar. While loosely following Plutarch's Lives, which condemns the moral downfall of Antony, Shakespeare takes a more balanced view of the situation, hinting that Antony's military shortcomings may have been as much to blame for his defeat as his relationship with Cleopatra. Their troubled romantic alliance cannot keep these vanquished leaders alive, each committing suicide ¯ Antony by his own sword and Cleopatra by the famous asp bite.
The level of acting was high, with several outstanding performances. Mark Light-Orr was bigger than life as Marc Antony, in a muscular, passionate, intensely erotic portrayal. Libby Christophersen as Cleopatra started out tentatively, but soon found her stride, her scenes with Light-Orr sizzling, and her scenes with her ladies in waiting gently humorous. Nicholas J. Coleman was a handsome, magnetic presence as Octavius Caesar, dominating the stage whenever he appeared.
Carmine Covello, Jr. was a splendidly powerful Pompey and also contributed strong support as Philo and Dollabella. Harvey Johnson was a likable, elegant Enobarbus. Dale Ho contributed three uniquely rich portrayals as Thidias, Proculeius, and Alexas. As Cleopatra's confidantes, Canan Erguder was a spirited, fun-loving Charmian, and Rebecca Olympia was an enigmatic, sensual Iras. Suzy Myers was sensitive and sympathetic as Octavia, the fragile widow who becomes Antony's second wife.
William Blanton, Chad Briggs Kerst, Matthew Scott
Schapiro, Daniel Marzollo, David Sochet, Matt
Gordon, and Justin Lioi contributed excellent performances
in supporting roles.
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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern