Friends of Caesar

Julius Caesar

By William Shakespeare
Directed and designed by Beverly Bullock
The Lion Theatre, Theatre Row (410 W. 42nd St.; 212/279-4200)
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 20)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Julius Caesar is about politics -- loyalty, betrayal, and manipulation. ShakespeareNYC presented an unabridged, captivating production of this classic tragedy.

The plot of Julius Caesar centers on the head of Rome, Julius Caesar, and his next in command, Brutus. Cassius loathes Caesar and decides to poison the rest of the Senate, including Brutus, against him. He succeeds in convincing Brutus that Julius is a tyrant and needs to die. The Senate lures Caesar into a trap, and they all stab him, even his trusted friend, Brutus. Afterwards Brutus manipulates the masses into thinking Julius is a tyrant, but Julius’s loyal friend, Marc Antony, convinces them of the truth -- that the betrayers are the tyrants. There is a war, and all of those who betrayed Julius are punished as his nephew, Octavius, takes command of Rome.

Julius Caesar is classic Shakespeare. He shows his adept knowledge of a crowd’s reaction and manipulation, as well as politician’s motivations. There is also some humor sprinkled amongst the drama, and at the end a typical denouement where the new ruler takes over after all the blood of the older generation has been slain.

Beverly Bullock did an exquisite job with this production. All of the situations and line readings felt real; the staging made the intimate space feel like a full city. Her conceit of setting the entire thing in the South in the 1930s was intriguing, even though not much was done with it and the accents were inconsistent. The show ran a little long, however; some trimming of the text would have been apropos.

The ensemble was excellent; there was not a weak link in the large cast. The highlight was in the ad-lib scenes of fickle crowds, when the actors vacillated from side to side incessantly and comically.

Technically the show shone as well. James Bedell created an entire world with his intricate lighting design -- there were shadows and different colors; each scene had many different cues. The costumes by Beverly Bullock from the TDF Costume Collection were vibrant and vivacious.

Overall, this was a very good production of Julius Caesar, with a talented cast and well-thought-out design and direction.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh