Anthony and Cleopatra
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Joseph Discher
Starring Michael Dorn and Carolyn Kozlowski
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Tonight’s headline: “Roman general screws up own suicide: sad!” Sex will drive a man to do stupid stuff; examples are everywhere. Mark Anthony (Dorn) ducked out to visit sultry Egypt leaving his wife to lead a rebellion somewhere unpronounceable; now he’s doing the double nasty with seasoned and sensuous Cleopatra (Kozlowski). The sex and the politics are equally as hot; back in Rome Octavius Caesar (Rodney Lizcano) tries to manage an unwieldly Trans-Mediterranean empire in a threesome with horny Anthony and ineffective Lepidus (Shane Taylor). Caesar wants peace and loyalty, Lepidus avoids a horrible death, but Tony wants another hot weekend in Alexandria. Machinations arise; there’s a political marriage between Anthony and Caesar’ sister, but it lasts about 15 seconds before Tony heads back to the honey pot of sweaty Egyptian sex. And then the murders begin…
As Shakespeare’s stories go, this scrip makes more sense than most. Motivations are clear, deceits are plausible, and the action between Dorn and Kozlowski is clear and even pushes hard against the sort of “community standards” Shakes obeys, even in the breach. Kozlowski’s on-stage presents dominate the evening; she’s the more experienced courtesan, survival motivates her until it doesn’t, and I think she’s actually in love with this guy. Dorn is clearly dominant in his role, yet he’s upstaged every time Kozlowski has a chance. He seems comfortable in his out-of-town-big-name-actor role but she’s the scrappier fighter winning the on-stage contest of “who does the audience love?” The supporting actors are mostly equity; Lizcano is likeable yet brutal, the soothsayer (E. Mani Cadet) creepy, and as to the minor role, well each wonderful in their own way. Jeorge Bennet Watson as Enobarus is the general who knows how to dodge the spears, Sophie Blum shines as Cleopatra’s maid Charmian, and Blaine Edwards’ Pompey looks good in Roman armor.
Actually, the whole set looks good, this one of the most beautiful sets I’ve seen. The scenic crew lead by Rebecca Pancoast shined. An impressive eagle fights an Egyptian Ra upstage, rough brickwork glowed under oblique lighting, and a gold leafed combination chair and bed contains the intimate action between the principles. There were a few light tricks I never did figure out, and while this show has many merits and an all-around great cast you GOTTA see this set. Sex, politics and great lighting; this show has it all.
For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org