As Brutus, friend of Caesar, pulls his knife from his dear companion and watches him die on the floor, he tells his co-conspirators that “ambition’s debt is paid.” In these words, he encapsulates the life of Caesar, a man who allowed his ambitions to carry him too far too fast, and whose death is the final price to be paid. Unfortunately, he also offers a quick summary of the production of “Julius Caesar” put on by the Acting Company in association with the Guthrie Theater at Baruch College.
With eyes far larger than their stomachs, the company tried to tie this play to the contemporary movements of Occupy Wall Street and the corporate-political world to which OWS objects.
The production fails to make a cohesive point about modernity because of its too-wide scope, and instead provides unconnected motifs that occasionally pique the audience’s interest.
This is not to say that the staging or acting was unacceptable. Dominating the stage in the first half was the duo of Sid Solomon and William Sturdivant as Cassius and Brutus, brothers-in-arms against the tyrant Caesar, played by Bjorn DuPaty. Dressed in contemporary suits and ties, the senators become members of either a cabinet or boardroom meeting, while the conspirators are armed with letter openers. Solomon gave an especially remarkable performance, evoking, in both looks and mannerisms, a more deadly and devious version of Sam
Seaborn, Rob Lowe’s character from “The West Wing.” But it was Sturdivant who propelled the action forward with his masterful oratory, pushing the senators and then preventing them from killing more than they thought was necessary.
Enter Marc Antony, played by a marvelously powerful Zachary Fine. Resounding in word and powerful in deed, Fine addresses a funerary oration to the ensemble, whose seating among the audience gives the effect that everyone in the theater is a part of the crowd on the day of Caesar’s death.
Director Rob Melrose made several interesting choices in his staging, using a large number of video screens with views of Washington D.C., as well as short but powerful transition videos. Combined with the loud hip-hop, the multimedia additions bring the audience forward into the 21st century. But the message remains unclear, as the echoes of modernity don’t resonate purely. No such political or corporate power is as beloved by the masses as Caesar was by the Roman mob. In the political sphere, there is no dominant personality taking the crown, but a grinding deadlock between small men. We have no Caesar to love and support, no greatness of spirit nor benefactor of the people. Caesar, “the choice and master spirits of this age,” is no more, and, from the looks of it, such a man shall never rise again.