Review: ‘Julius Caesar’
Heartless Imperium at Power Center
By Robert W. Bethune
It was clear that the Royal Shakespeare Company had not disappointed the Powers Center audience with Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Everybody stood up at the end. It is quite easy to get Power Center audiences to stand up at the end. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a production there where they didn’t do it.
However, there was a problem at the heart of this production. Sean Holmes, the director, didn’t let it have one. James Hayes plays Caesar puffed full of bombast, covering great insecurity with pompous bluster. John Light plays Brutus as a complete prig. What Portia sees in him is a mystery, even thought Mariah Gale brings wonderful intensity to her one scene with him. Why the rest of Rome thinks so highly of him is a mystery. He shows no qualities of charisma or leadership. As Cassius, Finbat Lynch does not come across as a man capable of suborning murder, but as a disgruntled civil servant plotting to sabotage the fax machine.
The production is all head. Any sharp dramaturg can go through this text and demonstrate that Caesar is a blowhard, Brutus a prig, Cassius a small-minded trouble-maker and so forth. One could just as well go through “Winnie-the-Pooh” to show that Pooh is an idiot, Owl a phony, Piglet a sycophant, and so forth. The point is the same: It misses the point. Coming at a tragedy headfirst is like hitting a wall headfirst. For tragedy to work, we must feel that great and terrible things happen to intensely interesting people. Here I felt that depressingly unpleasant things of little consequence happened to very boring people.
There was some really dazzling costume design. With all the assassins in blazing white and Caesar in intense ochre, one assassin kneels before Caesar. The edge of his toga catches in a small pool of blood left over from the augury in the previous scene. The blood starts to soak into the cloth, rising from the hem, a small, brilliant crimson stain. Casca strikes at Caesar, and from that point on there’s brilliant red blood on everybody, almost blinding against the white. The design replaced the acting; I’ve seen more tension among a group of people waiting for a plane.
The theater brutally magnifies small faults. You can’t put a man with no shirt flat on his back down center and expect him to be dead, especially with the visual focus of half a dozen people directed at him while he keeps right on breathing. When a man is talking dead front to a ghost, having the ghost show up behind him just looks peculiar. When the desires of a proud noblewoman have just been publicly spurned by her husband in front of important people, she can’t just stand there as if she were waiting for a bus. When things like that happen, what little real feeling there is immediately evaporates.
UMS presents the Royal Shakespeare Company in “Julius Caesar,” performed in repertory through Nov. 12, at Power Center, 121 Fletcher Street, Ann Arbor. Tickets: $30-$150. For information: 734-764-2538 or http://www.ums.org.
The Bottom Line: Enjoy the visuals and leave your heart at home.
Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Compiled by Donald V. Calamia
MOT presents comedic masterpiece, ‘The Barber of Seville’
DETROIT – Michigan Opera Theatre’s 36th opera season continues with a tale of love and deception like no other, Gioacchino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” Nov. 11-18.
“‘The Barber of Seville’ is really the quintessential Italian comic opera, very whimsical and fun, and full of endearing characters,” said Dr. David DiChiera, founder and general director of Michigan Opera Theatre. “The music, some of opera’s most recognizable, is effervescent and light. ‘Barber’ is a treat for the soul, and audiences always leave the theater laughing and humming.”
Premiered in Rome, February 20, 1816, the two-act opera features an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini, based on a comedy of the same name by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Today, “The Barber of Seville” is one of the most popular operas in the cannon. MOT’s 2006 production will mark the company’s fifth staging of the work, which last graced the Detroit Opera House stage in 1999.
“The Barber of Seville” is wildly funny story of love, in which two men, Count Almaviva and Dr. Bartolo, vie for the heart and hand of a lovely young Sevillian girl, Rosina. The Count, with the help of a local barber named Figaro, uses a variety of schemes and disguises to woo the young girl from keeper, Dr. Bartolo. In the end, love wins, and all wind up happy.
The production will feature a diverse international cast of stars, many of whom will make their MOT debuts. The opera’s Prima Donna, Rosina, will be sung alternately by Italian soprano Manuela Custer and Puerto Rican soprano Jossie Perez. The love-sick Count, Almaviva, will be performed alternately by Japanese tenor Yasu Nakajima and American tenor Victor Ryan Robertson. Namesake of the production, the barber Figaro, will be sung by Slovakian baritone Dalibor Jenis and Italian baritone Gianpiero Ruggeri. Of these principal stars, only Ruggeri has appeared with MOT previously, in the company’s 2000 production of “Cosi fan tutte.” The role of Bartolo will be performed by American bass baritone Jason Budd, who last appeared with the company in 2005’s “Tosca.”
Italian maestro Edoardo Mueller, returns to conduct the opera, his first production with MOT since “Aida in Concert,” in 2000. Italian stage director Mario Corradi will direct. “The Barber of Seville” marks his 16th production with the company.
In addition to MOT’s five performances of “The Barber of Seville” at the Detroit Opera House, the company has decided to present a special one-night engagement of the production at the Wharton Center, in East Lansing, on Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. During the 2005 fall season, the company presented a single performance of Puccini’s “La Boheme” at the Wharton Center, to much acclaim.
“We are thrilled that the Wharton Center has invited us back for a second year,” said DiChiera. “This is wonderful opportunity for people outside of the Detroit area to enjoy grand opera, and we’re very excited to share our productions with a wider audience.”
The Wharton Center engagement will feature Jossie Perez, Victor Ryan Robertson and Gianpiero Ruggeri in the production’s three alternating roles.
Tickets for MOT’s 2006 production of “The Barber of Seville” at the magnificent Detroit Opera House range from $28-$120.
Tickets are available at the Detroit Opera House ticket office (1526 Broadway, Detroit, 48226), by phone at 313-237-7464 and online at http://www.MichiganOpera.org.
Tickets for Michigan Opera Theatre’s “The Barber of Seville” at the Wharton Center are available at 517-432-2000 or online at http://www.WhartonCenter.com.
From our Hallowed Halls of Learning:
Explore ‘The Secret Garden’ at Kalamazoo College
KALAMAZOO – Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College opens its 43rd season with “The Secret Garden,” November 9-12 at Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.
Mystery, magic and beauty, the musical adaptation of Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic 1911 children’s novel is sure to mystify young and old; combining the themes of re-birth, yearning for the past and the ultimate healing power of love. “The Secret Garden” takes place simultaneously in India and Edwardian England, in both the past and present. Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman wrote the book and lyrics and won the Tony Award for Best Book for a Musical. Lucy Simon’s musical score features such beautiful melodies as “Lily’s Eyes” and “How Could I Ever Know.”
“The Secret Garden” embodies one of the most multi-disciplinary and integrated approaches to a play ever produced at Kalamazoo College. It is an “All Fine Arts Division” production with orchestral conducting and vocal direction by music professors Thomas Evans and James Turner. Ed Menta directs “The Secret Garden,” with production design by Jon Reeves and dialect coaching by Karen Berthel, all theatre arts professors. There will also be participation by the sculpture class taught by art professor Sarah Lindley. Guest artist Elaine S. Kaufmann will design costumes and Kalamazoo College student Halcyon Derks will choreograph movement for the production. Psychology professor Siu-Lan Tan is serving as development psychology advisor and is also incorporating the play into her class.
“The Secret Garden” will run Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 9-12 at Nelda K. Balch Playhouse on the campus of Kalamazoo College.
Tickets on Thursday night are only $1, but must be purchased at the door that evening. Tickets for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.
For reservations, call 269-337-7333 and leave your name and phone number.
Stratford Festival News:
Stratford Festival to workshop MacIvor play
STRATFORD, ONTARIO – The Stratford Festival of Canada is set to collaborate with Daniel McIvor, Toronto-based writer/performer/director, by workshopping McIvor’s pla, “His Greatness,” from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.
The Stratford Festival’s New Play Development program was established by Artistic Director Richard Monette to assist in the creation and development of text-based works in the contemporary drama, classically themed drama and music theatre, with a special emphasis on the Canadian voice. Plays selected as part of the New Play Development program often go on to have public readings with the potential of being a part of a future Stratford Festival season. Peter Hinton’s Fanny Kemble was given a public workshop reading in the 2005 Festival season, and went on to be part of the Studio Theatre line-up in the 2006 season.
McIvor’s “His Greatness” is set in a hotel room over a 24-hour period, and centers on the story of a famous playwright from the southern U.S. who comes to Vancouver in the early 1980s for the premiere of his play. The play is about ideas, and it ponders the question of what happens when greatness – whether it is talent, loyalty or beauty – slips away. Although “His Greatness” has been through workshops at San Francisco’s Encore Theatre and in New York, MacIvor has been looking for a chance to workshop his play in Canada.
“It felt like a good fit to do something at Stratford,” said MacIvor. “Stratford is representative of an idea of theatre…the whole community is centered on it – it’s ‘Planet Theatre'”. The artistic director/founder of Toronto theatre company da da kamera added that his plan for this year is to focus on playwriting, and he hopes to emerge from the workshop process with some new drafts of “His Greatness.”
The director and dramaturg of the workshop will be Linda Moore, former artistic director of the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The play features Richard Monette in the role of the Playwright, Geordie Johnson playing the Assistant, Allan Hawco as the Young Man and Lara Jean Chorostecki as Julie/Stage Directions. The Stage Manager for the workshop will be Michael Hart.
Community Theater Corner:
Peppermint Creek stages Albee award-winning play
EAST LANSING – The Peppermint Creek Theatre Company presents “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” by Edward Albee Nov. 9 – 16 at the former Cafe Aroma, 110 Charles Street, East Lansing.
From Edward Albee, one of the most lauded contemporary playwrights of our time, and author of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Zoo Story,” comes quite possibly his most intriguing piece to date. Martin Gray is a success by most standards: Award winning architect, a full family life, with a loving wife and son. But on his 50th birthday, a secret is revealed. He’s in love with Sylvia – a goat. When his best friend and family find this out, their process transcends their situation and lays the groundwork on which taboos can not be shrugged off as sinfully obscene practices. “The Goat” offers a parable that plumbs the deepest questions of social constraints on the individual expression of love.
Winner of the 2002 Tony Award for Best Play, “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” is not about bestiality, but the irrational, confounding and convention-thwarting nature of love. The production stars Doak Bloss, Gini Larson, Spencer Smith and Steve Shelton.
“The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” runs Nov.9-12 & 16-18 at the former Cafe Aroma in East Lansing (next to Georgio’s Pizza, across from Barnes & Noble). All shows are at 8 p.m., except Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15, and $8 for students and seniors. Reservations strongly encouraged.
For more info or to order tickets call 517-719-3887 or visit http://www.peppermintcreek.org.
Players Guild presents wonderful holiday tale, ‘Here’s Love’
DEARBORN – “Here’s Love,” a joyous musical adaptation of “The Miracle on 34th Street,” is the perfect family musical for the holiday season. Susan Walker’s (Kelley Donnelly) six-year-old life is one of stark reality. Her mother, Doris, (Megan Meade-Higgins) is in charge of staging the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The divorced Doris is determined that the fantasies and disillusionment which doomed her former marriage will not become Susan’s fate. When the parade is threatened by its Santa showing up quite tipsy, the day is saved by a jolly man with a streaming white beard, Kris Kringle, (Mike Moseley) appearing from nowhere. A big success in the parade, he goes on to become the Macy’s store Santa. Meanwhile, Susan has met Fred, (Kenneth Kilgore) a returning Marine veteran and hopeful law student. He befriends Susan, even though Doris believes that it is really a plot to get to her.
Although Kris is a great Santa, Mr. Macy (Mark Byars) is upset because Kris tells mothers where to buy toys that Macy’s does not sell! However, Doris sees a great chance to promote Macy’s as a friendly store in the true Christmas spirit. The plan is a great success, but in the process, Kris admits that he is the real Santa Claus. This strange behavior gets him an interview with the store’s psychologist, Dr. Sawyer, (Jim Kerwin) who nearly goes mad trying to break down Kris’s story and wants to have him committed. Susan and Kris have become good friends, so when she learns of Kris’s plight, she asks Fred to help him. The move is supported by Doris, who is happily discovering that Fred is not like the other men she has known.
At the sanity hearing Mr. Macy and the little son (Ethan Hyma) of the prosecuting attorney (Alex Gojkov) testify that Kris is indeed Santa Claus.
Fred, managing to get the U.S. Post Office to deliver all of its “Dear Santa” letters to the courtroom, convinces the judge (Tim Carney) to accept the U.S. Government’s recognition as proof of Kris’s claim. A jolly holiday finale brings Fred success at the hearing and a prospective wife and daughter as well.
“Here’s Love” is the perfect family musical with a tuneful Meredith Willson score that introduced “Pine Cones &Holly Berries,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “That Man Over There is Santa Claus.”
The Players Guild of Dearborn’s production of Here’s Love is directed by Brian Townsend, assisted by Tom Sparrow and Marybeth Kinnell, with Lee George as Musical Director, Choreography by Amy Hendrickson and produced by Colleen Mead-Ripper and Sandra Deering.
The Players Guild of Dearborn will present 11 regular performances of “Here’s Love.” The Players Guild will reach out to the community by being a sponsor for the Toys for Tots campaign. Anyone interested in helping spread the joy of the holiday season with less fortunate children may bring a new, unwrapped toy, and drop it in one of the collection boxes located in the main lobby before performances and on box office nights.
Tickets are $18 and all seats are reserved. Student and group rates are available. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8 p.m., with the ticket booth opening at 7:15 p.m. Sunday matinees begin at 2:30 p.m., with the ticket booth opening at 1:45 p.m. Late seating is at the discretion of the theater.
The Players Guild of Dearborn is located at 21730 Madison, southeast of Monroe and Outer Drive.
To purchase tickets or for further information about tickets and availability, call the ticket office at 313-561-TKTS. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
A2CT presents ‘Tom Jones’
ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents the David Rogers adaptation of Henry Fielding’s classic comedy, “Tom Jones,” Nov. 9-12 at Washtenaw Community College’s Towsley Auditorium. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Directed by Jimmy Dee Arnold, “Tom Jones” is the romantic, swashbuckling story of infamous rake Tom Jones. Banished for an illicit affair with a betrothed woman, Tom leaves London in search of adventure. When the woman he loves – the beautiful Sophia – refuses to marry her intended, she sets out in search of Tom and the chase is on. 18th Century England is the backdrop for the wild romp, a time “when the world was indeed wicked, bawdy, and licentious.”
The talented cast features Kent Klausner as Tom Jones, Alaina Lovera as Sophia, David Burfoot as narrator Partridge and Robin Barlow as Squire Allworthy. The cast also includes Olive Thursby, Kathy Waugh, Catherine Zudak, Carl Hanna, Gordon Barnett, Alan Burk, Mark Bernstein, Brenda Oelbaum, Emma Kennedy, Jon Elliott, David Melcher, Alexandra Berneis, Andrew Hoag, Ann Marie Mann, Mary Ann Stevenson, Maria Vermuelen and P. Bruce Bertram.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students and seniors Friday through Sunday, and $13 for all tickets on Thursday. Student tickets are $10 on Friday.
Tickets are available at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann St, by calling the office at 734-971-2228 or at the door. Additional information is available by visiting http://www.a2ct.org.
K’zoo Civic Theatre’s Senior Class Reader’s Theatre to present ‘USO Show’
KALAMAZOO – The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre Senior Class Reader’s Theatre will present “USO Show” Friday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m., in the Carver Center Studio Theatre, 426 South Park, Kalamazoo.
In observation of Veterans Day the Senior Class Reader’s Theatre will present a musical review comprised of patriotic songs of hope and remembrance. This moving celebration will serve as a heartfelt tribute to the brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve, in the armed forces.
Directed by Roger W. Burleigh, with musical direction by Lori Hatfield, the cast features Mary Ann Spalsbury, Laura Latiolais, Gwen Raseman, Lynette Baber, Glyni Fenn, Priscilla Cronley Swait, Donna Willoughby, Robert Griffin, Lou Irwin, Jr., Robert Husser, Bill Richter, Gene Haulenbeek, David Senecal and Gary Willoughby. Making their Civic debuts are Diane Byrne, Toni Stowe and Jay Miller.
Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door.
For any additional information, contact the Box Office at 269-343-1313.