Theatre Information

Henley Street Theatre Julius Caesar

By • Apr 9th, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
Julius Caesar
Henley Street Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage, Richmond, VA
Through April 20th
2:30 with one intermission
$25/$30 Senior/$20 Student
Reviewed April 6th, 2013

As I have said before, since becoming a reviewer here in Richmond a few months ago, I have been amazed at how much this theater community has to offer. There is literally something for everyone.

Now, I have also said consider myself to have “more common” tastes in theater. I love comedy, and musicals and an occasional modern drama, but I have never been a fan of Shakespeare (yes, I shall fall upon my dagger in shame). However, Henley Street Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar has changed that.

In an “Orson Wellesian” production, the play is moved to an early 20th century totalitarian state. The play then explores the universal themes of walking the line between patriotism and personal ambition; and friendship and loyalty vs. self-interest.

Adrian Grantz (Murellus, Metullus, Messala) starts out both acts speaking the words of Shakespeare (which I must confess is all Greek to me) but in a modern conversational tone. This immediately put me at ease that I might actually be able to follow the action and be entertained.

Indeed, the two principal characters Brutus (Dan Stearns) and Cassius (Jonathan Hardison) maintained this style of performing. The effect was, even when I could not totally comprehend the words; through their inflection, body language and emotion, I was able to follow the plot (plot being the key word).

For those not familiar with the classic story, it is rife with plotting and backstabbing (literally). Julius Caesar (Jay Milliman) is about to ascend to be the country’s leader. While Mark Antony (Jeffrey Schmidt) remains loyal, all the other leaders plot his death.

Margarette Joyner’s modern business-like costumes and Tennessee Dixon’s set (which could double as the cold drab marble halls of Congress) set the scene perfectly. James Ricks’ direction; utilizing multiple exits and entrances and crosses into the house and up into the risers; was more like watching a captivating modern theatrical extravaganza than a 500-year-old play. Andrew Bonniwell’s lighting alternated nicely between dim shadows during the plotting, and bright flashes of light during a thunderstorm and battle. The lighting of Caesar’s ghost is indeed haunting.

Interestingly, it is as Caesar’s ghost that Milliman best portrays Caesar’s commanding, imposing and empirical side. When alive, he seemed more like a warm, charismatic, yet self-doubting U.S Senator running for office. Kyle Butler as his young successor Octavius, is brash, brazen and cocky.

Schmidt’s Antony would indeed make a great modern-day politician. His eulogy for Caesar was a cross between a 21st century political attack ad (I loved the way he increasingly attacked the words “Brutus is an honorable man” to turn it into an insult) and a 1961 Kennedy address (friends, Romans, countrymen; ask not what your country can do for you….)

Katrinah Carol Lewis was extremely strong and powerful as Brutus’ wife Portia. She gave emotion and modern depth to a small supporting role as the loving woman behind the man. It was also extremely nice to see four young student acting interns in supporting roles (David Adams, Eric Evans, Ben Fox and Diego Salinas). Each did well with the various characters they were given; but Fox stood out in a beautiful, soft and touching rendition of a lullaby to Brutus, accompanying himself on the lute (a la Zac Efron in the 2008 movie “Me and Orson Welles”).

There was an occasional actor who started to sound a bit like a truly overacted Shakespearean than the rest of the cast’s modern tone; and the sounds of a cheering crowd started and stopped rather abruptly, like the laugh track on a sitcom; but otherwise it was truly an impeccable presentation. Whether you are a Shakespeare fan, or a novice, you will enjoy Henley Street’s modern take on this classic.

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Henley Street Theatre

The Cast

  • Julius Caesar: Jay Milliman
  • Brutus: Dan Stearns
  • Cassius: Jonathan Hardison
  • Antony: Jeffrey Schmidt
  • Portia: Katrinah Carol Lewis
  • Calpurnia: Melissa Johnston Price
  • Casca: Andrew C. Boothby
  • Octavius/Soothsayer: Kyle Butler
  • Decius: Michael J. Perez
  • Murellus/Metullus/Messala: Adrian Grantz
  • Flavius/Cinna/Titinius: Frank Creasy
  • Student Acting Interns/Ensemble: David Adams, Eric Evans, Ben Fox and Diego Salinas

The Crew

  • Director/Sound Design/Fight Choreography: James Ricks
  • Assistant Director: Christine Hillgrove
  • Stage/Production Manager: Tiffany Shifflett
  • Scenic Designer: Tennessee Dixon
  • Lighting Design: Andrew Bonniwell
  • Costume Design: Margarette Joyner
  • Choral Director: Valerie Accetta
  • Studio Choral Director: Stan Baker
  • Latin Translator: Jeremy Gershman:

Disclaimer: Henley Street Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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