'Julius Caesar' closes summer of Shakespeare
One of William Shakespeare’s most often quoted plays is “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” currently being presented by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. “Julius Caesar” lacks much of the contrived confusion and misunderstandings Shakespeare audiences are familiar with. As Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Parks Artistic Director, Kathryn McGill states in the program: “The language is hardly as lush as ‘The Winter’s Tale.’ It’s unique to this play. It’s the cold, crisp logic of the Empire, and as sharp as a dagger’s point.” The language is just as beautiful and the cadence just as lyrical, but the character motivations are much more straightforward and clear. While Shakespeare gives these characters a greater clarity, they can be just as devious as any fictional personality.
Julius Caesar is wise and canny, ruthless in battle, yet caring of his clients and the commoners of Rome. He is hailed by all as a conquering hero and returns to Rome in triumph. Brutus is his friend, beloved of the great Caesar and he loves him greatly in return, but Brutus is also a great friend of Cassius who is jealous of Caesar’s success. Cassius is the instigator behind a plan to assassinate Caesar and convinces Brutus that Caesar’s ambition must be curbed. They are joined by a group of Senators, corrupt and otherwise.
Antony is not taken in by this, and together with Octavius they can only rebel against Brutus and Cassius after the assassination has taken place. Things do not go so well for Brutus and Cassius who pay a heavy price for their treachery. Antony and his ally Octavius manage to save the republic for a generation.
David Fletcher-Hall leads the cast as Julius Caesar. His portrayal allows us to see the many facets of Caesar, his confidence and control, his trustworthiness and his trust in others. Rick Nelson is Brutus, and he is convincing as Brutus. His delivery is as crisp as Shakespeare’s language; however he occasionally seems flat, masking the complicated emotions that motivate him. Wil Rogers is Antony, and several of his greatest speeches are rushed, obscuring some of the best, or most quotable, lines in the play. David Mays is Cassius. His performance is consistently hurried and his characterization is very simple or one-dimensional in his rage. Unfortunately the lack of variation in personality as well as pitch and pacing are at odds with the demands of such a conniving character.
The remaining rather large cast does an excellent job with some gems to acknowledge. Josh McGowan is an excellent Cinna. Ariel Richardson as Portia and Stacy Casaluci as Calpurnia are very refreshing.
The program for “Julius Caesar” states “Production Staged by Robert E. McGill,” and the production is very beautifully staged. The light touch of a director in pacing and pitch would reveal much more of the complicated motives of these multidimensional and interesting people. Instead, the pacing is too rapid and inconstant while the anger in some characters is pervasive and constant. Thus, while “Julius Caesar” is well done, it just misses being great. This is unfortunate particularly as Fletcher-Hall in the title role is balanced and very interesting.
“Julius Caesar” plays through September 26, 2015; information and tickets are available on line at www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700. "Julius Caesar" is performed at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage; this lovely fall weather makes any show a treat.