A Noise Within (ANW), a classical repertory theatre company which recently re-located to a new state-of-the-art theatre in Pasadena, opened a disastrous performance of Shakespeare’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, directed by ANW Producing Artistic Directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott will close on Sunday, May 13, 2012. This Shakespeare tragedy follows the love relationship between Cleopatra (played by Susan Angelo) and Mark Antony (played by Geoff Elliot) from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra's suicide. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar (played by Max Rosnak), the future first emperor of Rome.
Mark Antony, one of the three rulers of the Roman Empire, spends his time in Egypt, living a life of decadence and conducting an affair with the country’s beautiful queen, Cleopatra. A message arrives informing him that his wife, Fulvia, is dead and that Pompey (played by Christian Rummel) is raising an army to rebel against the triumvirate, so Antony decides to return to Rome. Upon his arrival, he and Caesar quarrel. Realizing that an alliance is necessary to defeat Pompey, Antony and Caesar agree that Antony will marry Caesar’s sister, Octavia (played by Angeles Gulner), who will solidify their loyalty to one another. Enobarbus (played by Robertson Dean), Antony’s closest friend, predicts to Caesar’s men that despite the marriage, Antony will return to Cleopatra.
In Egypt, Cleopatra learns of Antony’s marriage and flies into a jealous rage. However, when a messenger delivers word that Octavia is plain and unimpressive, Cleopatra becomes confident that she will win Antony back.
Caesar breaks his truce, wages war against Pompey, and defeats him. After using Lepidus’s (played by William Dennis Hunt) army to secure a victory, he accuses Lepidus of treason and imprisons him. This news angers Antony, as do the rumors that Caesar has been speaking out against him in public. Antony decides to fight him at sea, allowing Cleopatra to command a ship despite Enobarbus’s strong objections. Antony’s forces eventually lose the battle when Cleopatra’s ship flees and Antony’s follows, leaving the rest of the fleet vulnerable.
Convinced that his lover has betrayed him, Antony vows to kill Cleopatra. In order to protect herself, Cleopatra sends word that she has committed suicide. Antony, full of grief, is determined to join his queen in the afterlife. Antony then falls on his own sword, but the wound is not immediately fatal. He is carried to Cleopatra’s monument, where the lovers are reunited briefly before Antony’s death. Caesar takes the queen prisoner, planning to display her in Rome as a testament to his empire, but she kills herself with a poisonous snake instead. Caesar has her buried beside Antony.
Many consider the role of Cleopatra in this play as one of the most complex, powerful and captivating female roles in Shakespeare's work. However, this Cleopatra played by Susan Angelo was nothing of the sort. Susan Angelo’s portrayal of Cleopatra was not regal, powerful, strong or mesmerizing but instead she delivered a basically awful performance. It was painful to watch Ms. Angelo continuously pace up and down in a frantic fashion throughout the play and her body posture, way of walking and sitting and general movements were not that of a royal Queen of Egypt! In History, Cleopatra evokes the epitome of female or Venusian power and beauty – a Goddess who could provoke powerful men to fight wars but Ms. Angelo’s Cleopatra was the opposite. Her portrayal of Cleopatra was not that of a captivating, exotic beauty but rather of a frantic, frivolous, ordinary woman. She did not come across as a powerful ruler of Egypt.
Antony, played by Geoff Elliot was also badly performed. I don’t think it is a good idea for the lead actor to be a director as well. Geoff Elliot played a bumbling Antony throughout the play.
Octavius Caesar (played by Max Rosnak) was also poorly performed. Mr. Rosnak did not carry himself as a powerful leader in stature and with his attitude. I was not convinced that he was Octavius Caesar!
As for the “torrid love affair” between Antony and Cleopatra, I did not believe this was a sweeping love epic because both Ms. Angelo and Mr. Elliot lacked chemistry with one another and just seemed to be speaking the lines or at times exaggerating the drama with gestures to show affections instead of simply speaking from the heart.
None of the actors had stage presence except for Lepidus, played by Willaim Dennis Hunt and Pompey, played by Christian Rummel. Both these actors delivered solid, good performances. The rest of the actors did not communicate or relate to each other from the heart so I did not believe what they were saying, thinking or feeling. They did not listen to each other or use their natural instincts to communicate to each other or to the audience. The actors and acting was amateurish and self-indulgent. Even a high school production would have been better acted. Even though this is Shakespeare with its complex language, you still have to tell a story from the heart. Instead of being a Shakespearean tragedy, this play felt like a farce or mockery of “Antony and Cleopatra”!
Since the location of this play takes place in Rome, Athens and Egypt; I did not see many ethnic actors cast in any of the roles except for a minute few. Egypt is in Africa and I was amazed and offended that Cleopatra and all her attendants were as pale as ghosts. Los Angeles is full of so many actors from diverse backgrounds that I find it difficult to believe that the whole cast was mostly Caucasian.
The music, by composer Laura Karpman was more exotic and soulful than the acting. The lighting throughout the play was brilliant. The set design and staging was impeccable. Using ropes and higher and lower levels gave the scenes depth and a great visual display of the era. The quick set changes were effective and effortless. The costumes, furniture and props were colorful and added a rich texture to the play. However, I was not a fan of Cleopatra’s costumes because they were not regal or decadent enough for a Queen. The battle and fight scenes were excellent and well-choreographed. The highlight of the set was the rectangular pool of water at the front of the stage. It was a divine spectacle!
The set design was superb but this Shakespearean tragedy of “Antony and Cleopatra” felt more like “The Comedy of Errors”. This Noises Within production had style but no substance. Sitting through and watching this production was a gruelling experience for me.
A NOISE WITHIN
CLASSICAL REPERTORY THEATRE COMPANY,
PRESENTS SHAKESPEARE'S “ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA”
Saturday, March 3, to Sunday, May 13, 2012
NEW LOCATION: 3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107
The cast includes Geoff Elliott (Mark Anthony), Susan Angelo (Cleopatra), Max Rosnak (Octavius Caesar), Bill Hunt (Lepidus/Rustic), Christian Rummel (Pompey/Scarus), Ken Merckx (Demetrius/Dercetus), Greg North (Agrippa), Robertson Dean (Enobarbus), Raphael Goldstein (Eros), Nick Crandall (Soothsayer/Thidius), Nathan Turner (Philo/Schoolmaster), Angela Gulnar (Octavia), Steve Weingartner (Menas/Dolabella), Thad Shafer (Proculeius), Jill Hill (Charmian), Diana Gonzalez-Morett (Iras), Amin El Gamal (Mardian), Chris Karbo (Diomedes), Dane Biren (Abused Mess/Seleucus) and Philip Rodriguez (Varrius). Tom Buderwitz is the set designer, Ken Booth is the lighting designer and Angela Calin is the costume designer.