Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents JULIUS CAESAR. The crowd loves a winner. Julius Caesar is their guy. They want to make him a king. His side kick Marc Anthony is all for it. The rest of the Senate? Not so much. They fear JC becoming a dictator and destroying the Republic rule. Cassius, in particular, is ready to incite a rebellion. To ensure the revolution is successful, Cassius knows Brutus is the man to lead it. Brutus reluctantly agrees that Julius Caesar must be stopped…permanently. JULIUS CAESAR starts with a line dance and finishes with a massacre. In between, the tale goes from classic Shakespeare to action-packed war zone.
We know the story. We recognize the betrayal. Even Shakespearean novices know the signature line ‘Et tu, Brute’ means disloyalty. This is the well-known duplicity with a contemporary twist. The play authentically works transported to modern times because of the ageless desire for power. People want to be in charge. And politicians are the worst kind of control freaks. They attack their opponent to win the right to rule. It happened then. It happens now. And William Shakespeare captured it perfectly. He was the original spin doctor of political rhetoric. His strong orations sway the crowd one way and with the next speech, the people fervently bend to the other side. The entire play is riddled with powerful and memorable passages.
Under the imaginative direction of Jonathan Munby, the bard’s words get a slap of reality and then a passionate gut punch. The spectacle starts with a crowd partying over the country’s recent triumphs. Foam fingers, plastic wrapped roses, baseball caps, the mob scene establishes a present-day feel. An over-sized banner with Caesar’s website and the obligatory ‘paid for’ source reinforce the modern vibe. Most of the 2nd Act startles with soldiers rappelling, shooting, slaughtering. It’s a battle to the end as the cast trash the set. Munby has characters spiral out-of-control in true human emotional implosions. The mad men transcend the familiar Shakespearean formality. Jason Kolotouros’ (Cassius) stabbing gets serial killer intense. John Light (Brutus) turns a domestic dispute into a lust-filled attack. Samuel Taylor (Octavius) reacts to a death with an unstoppable desire for blood. These gritty moments effectively blur the lines between good guys and bad guys. Who is really honorable?
The entire cast, especially the haunting McKinley Carter (soothsayer) and hysterical Larry Yando (Casca), make for an unforgettable shoot-em-up showcase. This is not JULIUS CAESAR’s politics like usual. And it’s better than any action thriller because the script is tried and true. JULIUS CAESAR is a classic re-mix for modern audiences.
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Munby
Thru March 24th
Buy Tickets at www.chicagoshakes.com