Nearly nekkid on the Nile
Antony and Cleopatra
You don’t know Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra? You’ve got company. Many local theater professionals have never seen it. Even a major festival like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival only does Antony and Cleopatra every decade or so. And that makes the current upstart production in Nevada City—a smart, sexy and robust effort by Synthetic Unlimited—even more noteworthy.
Antony and Cleopatra is a Roman play, a sequel of sorts to Julius Caesar. But Antony and Cleopatra also has much in common with Romeo and Juliet—both deal with impulsive romance and untimely death, but where Juliet and Romeo are barely legal, Antony and Cleopatra are mature rulers, celebrities with resources. Their star-crossed tryst puts their realms and their followers’ lives in jeopardy.
It’s all about sex, of course. Start with the queen of Egypt, whose beauty—and propensity to go through lovers like Kleenex tissues—are legendary. Then introduce Mark Antony, the charismatic military man, who’s gotten bored with political infighting (and marriage) in Rome. Sparks fly as this power duo begins a hot and very public affair. Friends warn that Roman legions are coming to destroy them. But the pleasures of the flesh—and wine and banquets—keep them partying by the Nile.
This production stars Yale-trained Grace Fae as Cleopatra. What’s the attraction of this part, compared to more famous tragic roles? Cleopatra stars throughout, with nearly 700 lines (more than twice as many as Lady Macbeth), and Cleopatra parades herself in as many provocative costumes as Madonna.
Muscular Jimmy McCammon plays Antony. Bare-chested and brandishing a sword, he’s convincing as a battlefield commander who can also speak well. He conveys an impetuosity befitting Antony’s self-destructive course.
McCammon shares directing responsibilities with Trish Adair. They’ve done a good job; lines have inevitably been cut, but the scenes flow one into the next and many are beautifully arranged. There’s also effective lighting design by Camen Hodges, set design by Pamela Hodges, sound design by Jay Tausig, and abundant costumes by Sovahn LeBlanc and Vivian Flint.
Not to mention the good supporting performances by a cast of 20. It’s a big undertaking, and it definitely works.