Noble Romans

Julius Caesar

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Lorree True
Deptford Players and Yorkville Repertory Company
New 42nd St. Theatre
348 W. 42nd St. (666-6509)
Equity showcase closes April 29
Review by Julie Halpern

The Deptford Players and Yorkville Rep's collaborative productions of Journey's End, Shaw one-acts, and The Trials of Martin Guerre have exhibited the highest levels of acting and stagecraft. Their current production, Julius Caesar, is evidence that these companies can tackle Shakespeare with the same success as the modern classics they are known for. Billed as "All Romans, All Togas, All the Time!" this is Shakespeare's uncut version, set in the time and place where the playwright set the action. A fine concept that worked magnificently.

In the skilled hands of director Lorree True, the play was two-and-a-half hours long. There were no dull moments, and the gifted ensemble made use of every word and nuance. Text-driven with no obvious prejudices or political agendas on the part of the director, the actors explored every corner of their complicated characters, their attendant moral dilemmas, and the ramifications of their actions. The cream-colored, mostly muslin set, with a few streamlined pieces of creamy furniture, conceived by Jeff Berry, evoked the grand but no-nonsense Roman world of the play to perfection. The similarly hued muslin togas, with brightly colored accessories, courtesy of True, enhanced the visceral physicality of the environment, and the simple, sometimes over-bright lights against all that cream added a stark urgency to the proceedings.

The well-chosen ensemble excelled in even the smallest roles, making for a richly textured production. Dudley Stone's regal, sympathetic Caesar captured all the levels of this multifaceted leader. Matthew Nowosielski's thoughtful, grave Brutus was an engaging presence. Jeff Berry's passionate Cassius glittered with intelligence and energy. Antony Ferguson's sensual, powerful Mark Antony was magnificent. Petite powerhouse Catherine Ho held her own among these veterans as a confident Octavius Caesar. The two female characters are given precious little stage time, but Ruthanne Gereghty and Stephanie Stone made the most of their dramatic moments in beautifully realized performances. Gereghty lent a rare elegance and warmth to her prescient Calpurnia, and Stone broke the mold of the fragile, supplicant Portia with a courageous portrayal of a general's daughter demanding the respect due her rarefied position in Roman societyãmaking her suicide even more disturbing. Much of the show's success was due to the efforts of actors in supporting roles: Eric Thorne, Jay Longan, Robyn Hussa, Christopher D. Roberts, Christian Todd, Richard Martin, Jeff Callan, Phil Kasper, Eileen Stevens, David Hutson, Lorraine Stobbe, and Erik Kever Ryle.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
LightingSound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Julie Halpern