Shakespeare and cell phones (hell yeah!)
To paraphrase Marc Antony, I come to praise Caesar, not to bury his show. Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of Julius Caesar is so up to date, it could be in Kansas City. But it’s right here in Sacramento. At STC, no less.
Co-directors Kirk Blackinton and Brian Harrower—admitted Shakespeare-philes and well-known for outstanding productions of The Bard at Big Idea Theatre—conceived this modern adaptation that revels in Shakespeare’s words but juices the tragedy with enough technical savvy (excellent sound effects and inventive slow-motion action) to make it even more compelling. It helps immensely that they have Matt K. Miller as the rock-star politician Caesar, the excellent Jeb Burris as Brutus and the charismatic Ryan Snyder as Marc Antony. When he says, “Lend me your ears,” he’s already caught your eyes. The downcard, as it were, also is strong—with, among others, Melinda Parrett as Casca and Melisa Pereyra as Cassius. Casca and Cassius are traditionally played by males, but the non-traditional casting works particularly well here because as it adds a certain sexual element to the Brutus-Cassius relationship.
The action takes place on a timeless-looking stage of arches and passageways (designed by Eric Broadwater) that facilitates exits and entrances. The costumes (by McKayla Butym) are both appropriate (suits, running clothes and the like) and eye-catching. Caesar has a William Shatner in Star Trek look about him—excellent.
Based on actual events—the 44 B.C. conspiracy against the Roman ruler, his assassination and the aftermath for those back-stabbing (and front-stabbing) conspirators—Julius Caesar has parallels today: The unholy alliance of money and politics, the “branding” of candidates and the cult of personality that surrounds many political figures. It’s like a history lesson in preparation for the future.