Last night, three bloggers went to the theatre: Paul Levy, who's already posted (thus the title of this post), John Halamka, and me. As Paul explains, we were invited to opening night of Julius Caesar at the ART in Cambridge, Mass., as part of this innovative theatre's community initiatives that include embracing the new media.
I'd been so taken with "The Rep's" last production, Copenhagen (I went twice and blogged about it each time), that I was very excited to be going again. I hadn't read Julius Caesar since college and enjoyed hauling out my 10-pound edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, with the price still on it: $5.95. My hubby and I tried to find the 1953 film with Marlon Brando as further preparation but instead saw a 2002 version that told the long backstory of Caesar and Rome, with a truly demented Richard Harris playing the role of the prior dictator. I read the play twice and the hubby and I talked about its meaning rather lengthily.
I was ready. And I was more than touched that we were all invited (the Three Musketeer-bloggers and our spice) to the truly scrumptious dinner before the play, which ended with touching remarks from the theatre's acting artistic director, Gideon Lester, about his original meeting with the play's director, and with truly affecting comments from the director himself, Arthur Nauzyciel. Shakespeare, it turns out, and especially this play, is rarely performed in Nauzyciel's native France. Clearly, this man, at only forty, is a force majeure in theatre globally. He's staged plays on racism in Atlanta ("Black Battles with Dogs"), in Iceland, in Greece, in Brazil...the list goes on. His parents were at last night's performance and he was very humble.
So to set the stage properly (so to speak), we have one of the world's greatest plays, directed by one of the world's most significant young directors, performed at one of America's premiere avant-garde theatres. And the food was good. And I was in the company of friends, including a new friend from the theatre who'd originally issued the invitation.
A high bar and it's a crazy production. For a proper review, see "Art, director shake up 'Julius Caesar,'" Megan Tench's piece in yesterday's Boston Globe. Unlike anything you've seen for Shakespeare. In the opening scenes, the men are in tails and, except for the one dressed as Superman who runs around the stage in circles like a two-year-old might, arms akimbo, the one who speaks in graceful sign language, and the Soothsayer who's dressed in black, the men are always in suits, with or without ties, shoes, and jackets at various times. There's a jazz trio (guitar, bass, and a singer) who provide interpretive refrains. There's the quietest "Et tu, Brute" you've ever heard. The stage design includes, at times, a leather couch and modern credenza, a car suspended from the ceiling, and, if you've seen Mamma Mia!, then you know how this production ends. The backdrop is atypical too, mirroring the banked seats of the theatre, resulting in this one-degree off-normal production ending with the performers taking their bows in that direction rather than ours.
None of it was what I expected, Shakespeare seasoned with absurdism, clearly in the hands of a great imagination...and I applaud ART, standing-O style, for taking the risk of inviting in bloggers, not even theatre bloggers, without constraint on what we write. Over to you, John.