Divine commentary

All For Love

By John Dryden
Directed by Cailin Heffernan
Boomerang Theatre Company
Center Stage
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

John Dryden wrote All for Love in 1677, not so long after Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra, but still, a bunch of kings had come and gone in those 70 years, and England’s style of drama had changed by the time Dryden wrote his take on Rome’s doomed lovers.

All For Love shows audiences a different perspective of Marc Antony (Peter Picard), and focuses on the final days of his romance with Cleopatra (Sheryl MacCallum). The action in Dryden’s story is set after the battle of Actium. For those who don't know their Roman history, Marc Antony and Octavian (Julius Caesar's grand-nephew and official heir) were struggling for control of the empire, and the battle of Actium was the point at which Antony's defeat became inevitable; afterwards, he and Cleopatra fled back to Egypt.

Audiences see Marc Antony only after his ignoble defeat, and he comes across as something of a doofus in Dryden's hands. He’s a moping, lovelorn, broken commander, who resists his friends’ attempts to rekindle his warrior spirit. Picard’s performance enhanced these aspects of the text, depicting a weak man, conscious of his faults, but unable to act against them. It's an interpretation of Marc Antony not often seen, but no less proper than the classic Shakespearean image of him.

There were a lot of nifty bits of subtle design work, and some clever directorial symbols used in this production. A great example of these was a downstage-right pedestal on which rested a statue of one of the gods from the Egyptian pantheon. On the other side of the stage was another pedestal that had a statue of one of the Roman gods. For each act, the gods were changed to suit the events of the story, so for the death scene it was Anubis and Pluto, the gods of death. It was a feature so clever that only a handful of mythology nerds would understand it, but it showed director Heffernan's attention to detail, and understanding of Roman and Egyptian culture.

Cheryl McCarron’s costumes included some authentic period armor and arms. The Romans got to wear more elaborate outfits than the Egyptians, whose costumes seemed a bit thrown together at times (I could swear one Egyptian had a pinstriped sash), but the look of both costumes and set (Scott Orlesky) fit the period, and added a good deal of realism to the production.

Since All For Love starts after the battle of Actium, this means that Dryden devotes his entire five-act play to what was only the last two acts of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. It did seem to drag on a tad, lasting for two-and-a-half hours. The Boomerang Theatre Company had edited it down a bit, but the doomed lovers still took their time getting to their inevitable deaths. On the other hand, this is a rarely produced work, so it’s perfectly forgivable that the Boomerangs kept in as much of it as possible, though that still might be bit much for folk who aren’t classical theatre buffs.

(Also featuring: Dylan Carusona, Gregory Mikell, Ingrid Griffith, Mark Light-Orr, Bram Heidinger, Ursula Cataan, Heather Braverman, Alexander Nicole Crisco, Taylor Nicole Adams, Steven M. Bari, Kirk Gostkowski, Andrew Harriss, Stephanie Rosenberg, and Melissa Haley Smith.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby