Creative “Julius Caesar” at the St Lawrence Shakeskpeare Festival at Prescott.

Reviewed by Connie Meng

Caesar

Photo by David Blake.  Richard Sheridan Willis as Julius Caesar. 

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, directed by  Rona Waddington.

The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival has opened their season with a strong and creative production of “Julius Caesar.”  Director Rona Waddington, with special permission from Actors Equity, has recruited 18 volunteers to play soldiers, senators, and citizens along with the 12 professional actors.  These volunteers do a fine job with the complex staging, as well as making some very nippy costume changes.

There are two real stand-outs in this generally strong cast.  Ash Knight as a wonderfully nuanced Brutus and Richard Sheridan Willis as the complex Caesar are both expert at handling the language.  My companion said for once she didn’t have to translate in her head. Jesse Nerenberg’s Cassius tends to be on a single note of anger till Act II, when we see more of his wiliness.  As Octavius Michael Man does a nice job, also doubling as the timid Cinna.

Mark Antony is well-played by Jonathan Purvis. Granted, Mr. Knight’s delivery as Brutus is a tough act to follow, but he does a good job with the funeral oration, in spite of audible vocal tension.  Mr. Purvis is also responsible for the excellent fight direction and choreography.  There’s even a Roman turtle formation in the final battle scene.

Melissa Morris makes a very good Portia and is also responsible for the first-rate music.  The choice to use Tyler Seguin, (obviously a master of circular breathing), on didgeridoo is just perfect.  I especially liked her arrangement for chorus, trumpet, and drum of the piece from the “Carmina Burana” that signals the end of intermission.

Alex Amini’s wigs and costumes are very good and kudos to the people helping with the changes.  Miss Morris alone must have at least 27.  The set by Attila Clemann works well, especially the raised panel for the funeral procession.

Director Rona Waddington, aided by Mr. Purvis, has come up with excellent staging.  From the opening sequence complete with soldiers, drummers, and senators to the final battle it flows smoothly.  The stilt-walker is uncredited, but he’s a fun addition.  I particularly liked the metal masks on poles during the night of sinister portents.  Miss Waddington has also helped her large cast develop characters whose humanity we understand.  A wonderful touch is the addition of Caesar’s ghost observing throughout Act II. Even the town clock cooperated by chiming during Caesar’s funeral.

Time prevents me from mentioning everyone, but as far as I’m concerned the experiment with the volunteers is a success.  This is a production that works.

St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival “Julius Caesar” in rep with “Much Ado About Nothing”

Through August 20                            Tkts: 613-925-5788

CAST

Lucius – Audrey Clairman

Artemidorus – Dejah Dixon-Green

Calpurnia – Sarah English

Brutus – Ash Knight

Murellus, Soothsayer – Gabrielle Lazarovitz

Cinna, Octavius – Michael Man

Portia – Melissa Morris

Cassius – Jesse Nerenberg

Casca, Messala – Trevor Pease

Pompey, Mark Antony – Jonathan Purvis

Ligarius, Titinius – Tyler Seguin

Julius Caesar – Richard Sheridan Willis

SOLDIERS, SENATORS, AND CITIZENS

Philip BuryBill Chambers

Daniel CookKatrish Evoy

Harold HessBarbara Kobolak

Tom KobolakSherry Leeder

Reed McDonaldNolan Molson

Gerry MorandWill Raby

Alec RicardsonDaniel Richardson

Bill RobertsRiley Vallom

Tom Van DusenSteve Wormington

CREATIVE TEAM

Director – Rona Waddington

Set – Attila Clemann

Costumes – Alex Amini

Music Director & Composer – Melissa Morris

Fight Director & Choreographer – Jonathan Purvis


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