By XUEYING CHEN ’16
Students, faculty and staff who enjoy post-apocalyptic television shows should attend Shakespeare Society’s modern adaptation of “Julius Caesar,” directed by Madeline Furlong ’14. The Shakespearean tragedy follows the assassination of the first emperor of Rome by a trusted friend, Marcus Brutus, played by Mara Palma ‘15, and the eventual demise of Brutus and his group of conspirators for murdering Julius Caesar, played by Micaela Palermo ‘14. Shakespeare Society makes excellent use of their post-apocalyptic theme to help convey the endless, overwhelming destruction that occurs in “Julius Caesar.”
Furlong has cleverly set the tragedy in the future during the year of 2044 at the Capitol Movie Theater of Rome, a bleak town in the state of New York. The set alludes to the architecture of the Theater of Pompey, where Caesar originally died in 44 B.C. Furlong’s rendition also uses props to remind the audience of ancient Roman culture. Roman numerals plastered onto the lid of a garbage can represent a clock to emphasize the passage of time. It also serve as a reminder of how humans are subject to fate throughout the play as the clock strikes 3 p.m. during scenes of mass violence.
The play opens with two gruff tribunes who berate the laborers for celebrating the death of Pompey, a rival who Caesar recently defeated gain sole governence over Rome. Caius Cassius, played by Maya Martin-Udry ‘16, plants the seed of conspiracy in Brutus’s mind. Together, the two characters lead a band of politicians to stab Caesar as punishment for being overly ambitious.
When Caesar and his subjects first appear, the blocking and physical placement of the characters resembles a court from any historical period, but the grungy, faded costumes suggest a gang. The costuming, inspired by shows such as “The Walking Dead” and “Resident Evil,” aptly captures the crumbling foundation that the society of Rome stands upon.
As the tragedy approaches Caesar’s assassination, tensions rise on stage among the characters. The conspirators surround Julius Caesar, who stands resolute against their request that he allow a minor character to return from exile. The actors play the murder with solemnity as they kneel in a circle surrounding Caesar centerstage. Their kneeling grants Caesar the superiority he wishes for as the sole ruler of Rome, but they also trap him and play upon Caesar’s declaration that he is “immovable” in his response to their request. The grave atmosphere only intensifies as each conspirator reaches forward to stab Caesar. Before Brutus makes the final stab, Caesar asks “Et tu, Brute?” in a hollow tone that captures his cold disapproval at Brutus’s betrayal. Instead of letting Caesar slump onto the floor, Brutus carefully lowers Caesar to lie back on the ground. The actors perform the assassination of Caesar as if they were making a sacrifice, but their exclamations after Caesar dies interrupt the gravity of the scene.
The conspirators must flee Rome after Caesar’s most beloved friend, Mark Antony, played by Kate Bussert ‘16, convinces the crowd to turn against them. The tension in the play surges once again in the second half, but this type of tension is different. Audience members will be pleasantly surprised by the second half of the play. Near the end, the choreographer and actors could embellish the only fight scene in the play so it looks more convincing, but the scene is only a minor detraction from the the adaption as a whole.
The play lasts for a little over two hours with a brief intermission in between the first and second half. Seats are quickly being filled up for all showings, which run Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend and next weekend. Doors will open at 7 p.m. all nights, except Sunday when shows will begin an hour earlier at 6 p.m. Those who want to find out how the rest of “Julius Caesar” plays out in a post-apocalyptic world should reserve their tickets today.