Oklahoma City University Presents an Excellent “Julius Cæsar”
Oklahoma City University is presenting “Julius Caesar” a historical tragedy by William Shakespeare. This production has been adapted by D. Lance Marsh, who directs “Julius Caesar” with a student cast of exceptional actors. “Julius Caesar” is different in many ways from typical Shakespeare as it lacks the contrived confusion we have come to know in his romances and comedies. The language is pure Shakespeare, of course, but very crisp and the action is quite straightforward. “Julius Caesar” is the most often quoted of Shakespearean plays, as it is so full of excellent ‘sound bytes’ that can be relevant in modern situations.
The adaptation is nicely done enabling the audience to follow the action easily. The story is historically familiar to most, the assassination of Julius Caesar, Rome’s greatest general and leader. Brutus and Cassius plot to dispatch Caesar on his way to the Senate. Caesar is warned by a soothsayer to ‘beware the Ides of March’ and as the date is March 14, Caesar has one day’s warning. Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, also warns him he should stay at home telling him of her nightmare featuring his danger. Nevertheless he sets out to attend the Senate, but the soothsayer has prophesied well, as has Calpurnia. Brutus and Cassius along with fellow conspirators, Casca, Decius Brutus, Trebonius, Cinna, Metellis and Ligarious murder Caesar, and he expires gazing into the eyes of the killer he mentored, Brutus. ‘Et tu, Brute?’ Even you, Brutus?
The citizens are easily swayed by the speeches of Brutus and others, but Marc Antony is not. Cassius and Brutus become the battle commanders opposite Antony and his ally Octavian as the two factions fight for supremacy at Philipi. All does not go well for those who brutally murder Caesar and the day is won by Antony and Octavian. Those moments depicting actual battle in the production are few, but performed realistically and profoundly as is Caesar’s death scene.
The beautiful set design for “Julius Caesar” is by Dustin Bielich, a senior majoring in scenic design and production and his skill is evident. The entire crew does an excellent job with lighting by Rick Reeves, projections by Jason Foreman and sound by Jae Shanks. Working with technical director Cale Coffia and Stage Manager, Audrey Mantia, the technical aspects are wonderful. The setting for “Julius Caesar” is modern, taking place in the early 1960’s, and the properties by Logan Jacisin and costumes by Alix Phelan reflect the setting accurately.
D. Lance Marsh directs an amazing student cast. There are 24 roles and they all contribute mightily to the production. The title role of Julius Caesar is superbly played by Austin Wyatt with just a touch of Caesar’s genuine arrogance. Brutus is Blayne Childers, and his portrayal is remarkably mesmerizing. The role of Marc Antony is wonderfully portrayed by Andrew Tompkins. These three complement each other in performance along with the other actors.
Cassius is played by Mallory Scheidel and she is excellent. Scheidel is one of a number females cast in normally masculine roles, and each of them create very natural and realistic characters. Casca is played by Madison Carey and she is equally exceptional. Decius Brutus is performed by Micah Gilley, and her interpretation is also quite good. Metellus is very well played by Emily Wollenberg, Marulles by Caroline Hawthorne and Lucius by Emily Tryon. All of the masculine roles realized by women in this production are done naturally and sensitively meshing marvelously with the male actors.
Of course the men are also quite admirable. Cinna is well-played by Erik Hamilton and Trebonius is executed well by Dustin Dale Barlow. Ligarious is nicely done by D’Vonte Stewart, Publius/Cato is portrayed nicely by Joey Witten and Flavius is admirably done by Joel Jenkins. Cicero/Messalo is neatly played by John Metcalf. The men are equally natural.
Of course there are a few women’s roles in the production and they are beautifully played. Calpurnia is Samantha Buzonas and Portia is Elsa Moen. These actresses both exhibit a feminine dignity and grace in their characters. The soothsayer is quite marvelously done by Natalya Fisher as she strums her guitar with perfectly suitable selections. As a minstrel, Fisher is a lovely bridge between the scenes contributing to the play’s seamless flow.
There are five commoner/soldiers, first is Corinne Prudente, second is Darius Freeman and third is Lindsay Steinberg. The fourth also plays Cinna, the poet and she is Shelby McCarver while the fifth is Zachary Prall. These five play their parts uncommonly well with enthusiasm and bravery. They are uniquely superb in creating the sounds and movements of a throng verging on a mob.
“Julius Caesar” plays through Sunday, October 28, 2018 at the Burg Theatre on the Oklahoma City University Campus. The curtain goes up at 8:00 pm for the evening performances with two Saturday performances, a matinee at 2:00 pm and the evening 8:00 pm show. October 28, has only the Sunday matinee at 2:00 pm. The Burg Theatre is located on campus at 2501 North Blackwelder. For tickets and information visit www.okcu.edu/theatre or call the box office at 405-208-5227.