a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Julius Caesar 2


I don’t know what I felt worse about Laura Linney & Josh Groban and my beloved “Natasha, Pierre…” losing to WAAAAAY inferior competitors at the Tonys. It was all going along sooo well, and then the ending happened. I’m heartbroken actually. Laura, Josh, and everybody at “Natasha…” I did everything I could for you. I saw “Little Foxes” twice and then “Natasha Pierre..” FOUR times. I never do this. I never go back to see shows again- and again-and again. But this year I did. And you get more and more involved with your favorites and then, they lose to Laurie Metcalfe and Whatshisface.

I didn’t fully review “Doll’s House, Part Two” because I disliked it sooo much I felt it wasn’t worth covering, but now this had to happen. Laurie Metcalfe, a performer I had liked before this, winning a Tony for THAT performance, that was jokey and sitcomy, and I felt gave the play absolutely no historical context whatsoever. Which century were we in?

It’s a feminist screed, but written by a young man, a barely talented young man, so it’s all over the place. Are you meant to sympathize or empathize with Nora? Or in the end her poor, deserted husband and her angry daughter?

Wily producing gave “The Doll’s House, Part Two” a midnight performance for Tony Voters, and I guess that sealed the deal.It did not win Best Play, but Laurie Metcalfe got what WASN’T coming to her, a Tony  for Best Actress in a Play.
She looked embarrassed in her seat when they called her name.I’m sure she just assumed her rival in that category Laura Linney was going to win. Metcalfe looked gobsmacked, to put it mildly. And her stunned acceptance speech was lackluster.

OTOH, I’m THRILLED that Michael Aronov has now ascended to an entirely new level in his career with his much deserved win for Best Featured Actor in “Oslo.”

And now we have the Public’s production of “Julius Caesar” to deal with!
I’ve always hated “Julius Caesar” as a play, but others beg to differ. It’s a classic. So OK, I go to the Shakespeare in the Park production expecting the worst, but I got the best. It’s the best production of “Julius Caesar” I’ve ever seen.

And it’s harrowing beyond belief, disturbing and not just because it’s been styled as a Donald Trump take-down. In the end, like in the “Doll’s House, Part Two” (which they should’ve called “Roseanne, Part Two”) I felt very sorry for Julius Caesar (the Trump figure, a marvelous Gregg Henry) and I don’t know if that’s what director Oskar Eustis meant. Like with “Roseanne, Part Two” (Oops! I mean “The Doll’s House, Part Two) I didn’t know where my sympathies were supposed to lie.

[Just to make things clearer than clear Calpurnia, Caesar’s comely, blonde wife ( a great Tina Benko) has a hilarious Slovenian accent, making her every line a punch line.]

Although, maybe that is what Shakespeare meant. You’re conflicted about Caesar, as many are about DJT. He’s given every color of the rainbow from popular hero to pompous ass by Gregg Henry.  It’s complex. HE’S complex. You can’t just take down the blow-hard ambitious leader, esp. in the horribly bloody way he is killed here. It’s historically accurate of course. Caesar WAS killed by his former supporters, “Et ,tu, Brute?” comes from that moment when his most-loyal side-man Brutus, stabs him, too. Corey Stoll, one of America’s great young actors, has a great time here.And so do we. And he is matched beat for beat by “Jitney’s” John Douglas Thompson as Cassius. But wait!

There are consequences! Brutus and Cassius and the other traitor/patriots have unleashed “the Dogs of War” growls Elizabeth Marvel, an absolute marvel as Marc Anthony. This is her greatest role, of course, usually played as a man, but here she’s a Kelly-Anne Conway  redux, a pig-tailed cheerleader, a slavish devotee type, always jogging after Caesar in a gym outfit, but then when Caesar is expectantly assassinated. she turns into a warrior priestess. Her “Friends, Roman’s and Countrymen, lend me your ears! I’ve come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!” was a pinnacle of modern acting. I was gripped and astonished as Marvel turned the character inside-out and backwards.

And then the bloody consequences of this bloody act continue as the assassins worlds’ unravel as a war pretty much breaks out against them. Spoiler alert! There are approximately 50 or so, young  actors hidden in the audience itself, in modern dress, who suddenly break their silence and make their presence known as they  shout and storm the stage, then get mowed down by an armed gang of SWAT teamed soldiers, who shoot their machine guns, RIGHT AT THE AUDIENCE! An explosive, deadly ending, with the bodies piled high, very high, the highest I’ve ever seen in a theater. There must be 75 members in this gigantic cast. And Brutus and Cassius come to self-inflicted ends themselves. Nobody is happy. . Except the audience,Julius Caesar 3

who has been thrilled to see Shakespeare finally done bloody well right. You’re left gasping, in the hot summer night air of Central Park .This is Shakespeare in the Park at a white-hot zenith.

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