Julius Caesar

Rated 4.0 Julius Caesar contains some of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines—“Et tu, Brute?”—phrases so ingrained, they’re often quoted unknowingly by folks who’ve never seen the play. But even though we get a jolt of recognition when we hear these lines onstage, the fact is that Julius Caesar isn’t staged often nowadays.Perhaps it’s because, for most of us, the play carries lingering associations with homework. Or, maybe it isn’t sexy enough—no romance, no seduction, no bedroom strategizing. What it has is power-grabbing, conspiracy, warfare and revenge, framed by great speeches and superstitious warnings (“Beware the Ides of March!”).

Director Jonathan Moscone doesn’t get as much tension out of the plot to kill Caesar as he might. But Moscone gets a fine performance out of L. Peter Callender in the title role and generates sparks between nominal allies Brutus (Charles Shaw Robinson) and Cassius (a very effective James Carpenter) as well as Marc Antony (Andy Murray) and Octavius (T.E. Webster).

Caesar’s assassination looks brutal—as it must. The conclusion, in which the killers slather their hands with gore, gave rise to the term “blood bath.” Moscone also raises the ante on the supernatural portents by placing Caesar’s ghost near Cassius and Brutus when they die.

Recent events reinforce the chaos after Caesar falls—the marauding gangs arbitrarily slashing strangers’ throats in the streets, while the new power duo of Marc Antony and Octavius draw up a list of potential enemies to be executed. The social breakdown suggests Baghdad or Belgrade.

All told, it’s a thought-provoking effort, a trifle slow early on but showing good style by the end.