Julius Caesar: A Meteoric Rise and Fall

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NOTE: Since publishing, it has come to Bwog’s attention that this review only covered the first half of the play. Bwog sincerely regrets the error.

Bwog’s Shakespeare Under the Stars Expert Julia Mix Barrington turned out last night for King’s Crown Theatre Troupe’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and returns this report.  Caesar‘s final performance is tonight at 8 PM.

If you’re facing the dilemma of whether or not to show up at Low Steps for KCST’s production of Julius Caesar, the answer is clear:  go.  The show’s deftly-executed concept creates a more-than-memorable experience and makes up for bombastic acting from all sides—for an hour or so, at least.

Until the play begins to flag, it’s truly glorious.  The director, Dan Blank, has a genius for mise en scène; first the milling crowd finds itself mildly captivated by the show’s Plebeian ensemble—a marketplace—milling and seething in front to Low only to be taken by surprise as Caesar, his entire retinue, some witches, and a small marching band stride in from behind to shouts of “make way!”  Blank writes that he “wanted the audience to realize the relevance for themselves,” but I’d argue that what’s actually effected is a time-machine-perfect transformation of the audience of 150-odd Columbians into a true and volatile turba worthy of any of the Seven Hills of Rome. 

This magic trick continues to amaze for the next few “stops” of the play:  the ensemble, banging trash cans and flashing strobe lights, ushers you through an impressive storm; plotters cast huge and ominous shadows over the brick of St. Paul’s; the semi-circle of audience and the trees in the inexplicable “garden” outside Schermerhorn delicately demarcate Brutus’s house, creating a sense of intimacy suitable to the dialogue’s talk of secrets. 

Unfortunately, it was around this scene that I stopped wondering at my transformation into a Roman and started paying attention to the acting.  A great concept can only take a show so far, and Caesar’s performances don’t have the power to carry the show after the novelty wears off.  There’s an air of contrivance and a sense of grasping to each scene which doesn’t mesh with the supreme realism—or at least consummate efficacy—of the traveling, open-air play.  The problem with this Caesar is that it’s around three hours long, and, with no outstanding performances to sustain it, the novelty of feeling yourself a part of the Roman mob wears off as quickly as your pre-gaming buzz, leaving you cold, bored, a little confused, and with very sore feet.  As Brutus’s fortunes wane, so does the crowd’s attention (I saw people slipping away even before Caesar was dead), and the clot of die-hards who witness Philippi is much smaller than the vast horde who started out hours before.

That’s the end, however.  The captivating opening is by far a different story, and for its sake, go to see Julius Caesar—it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.  Think of it, however, less as Shakespeare and more as the ham-fisted replica that’s a Renaissance Fair: completely fun and absorbing, but only for a finite amount of time.  See Caesar, by all means, but don’t be surprised when you don’t feel like staying too long.

 -review and photo by JPMB

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  1. EAL  

    In spite of Miss Barrington's review, I found the acting to be fantastic. Julius Caesar is a definite must-see this weekend.

  2. This reviewer  

    is a fool.

    I saw this show on Thursday night and came again last night. Brutus, Cassius, and Marc Antony were incredible- Brutus especially. If you see this show, you'll realize that its actors are its strength.
    "one of Shakespeare's more slack works"?
    "150 Columbians"? Read the program.

    Sometimes I wonder about you, bwog.

  3. I completely agree...  

    I'm not sure which show this girl was watching, but at the very least, Patrick Barrett and Jake Green were an absolutely stellar pair. The guy who played Antony (I'm unsure of his name) was also incredible. The reviewer doesn't seem to have a good grasp on the meaning of "outstanding performance."

  4. You're an Idiot

    "already one of Shakespeare’s more slack works"

  5. ding  

    At least it's better than this year's V-show.

    • Hmm  

      I beg to differ. Not to knock KCST, which did a fantastic job with such a difficult play as Caesar, but the Varsity show was on a different level. But then again, its probably impossible to compare such different theatrical works.

  6. These responses  

    are nuts! The concept for the show was great but the actual show was quite a bore. The acting was the opposite of compelling and the novelty of the show wore off soon after the second scene.

  7. yes  

    Bring it on indignant theater people! I wait all year for your petty responses to these reviews. Can't wait to see what happens when bwog pans this year's V-show (as it should).

  8. Great Performances  

    I also believe that the acting was top-notch. Brutus played the role extremely well, bringing the character to life. I was completely captivated by Antony during the Funeral Oration, he delivered the speech extremely well. These actors might no be at the level of Marlon Brando, but their performances were great and deserve praise.

  9. hmmm  

    while I think the show was great, I do have one problem with it: who ever plays Cassius needs to learn to stop sounding so angry in every role he plays and stop looking out into oblivion. when you talk to someone--look at them.

  10. well  

    I would agree to some extent with this reviewer. Th biggest stand-out performance was certainly antony, as well as the fantastic energy of the ensemble, but overall everyone was forced to scream in order to be heard by the crowd, and that in itself took away the potential for any real sort of acting. But as a spectacle it certainly was mesmerizing

  11. well  

    I have never seen such a terrible varsity show in all my years at columbia.

    bwog, I realize the v-show owns your soul, but please give them an honest review. TERRIBLE

    • agreed  

      definitely, BY FAR, the worst varsity show in my four years.

      i feel so bad for them. so much effort and a complete and utter flop.

      okay, they made me laugh a few times, but also made the audience want to leave in the middle of each song. the songs went on forever, were awful, and half of the time you couldnt understand the performers.

      I have been to the varsity show for 4 years - i would never miss CU's oldest tradition - but I would actually say: do not waste over 3 hours of your time with this.

      The fact that the most well-funded group on campus produces such shit is unbelievably embarrassing. obviously, they can produce shit and fool around on stage for 3 hours because they know (b/c they are the varsity show) that they will be performing to a full auditorium anyway. But this makes me appreciate the under-funded campus groups so much more: without money, the can act, sing, dance, and entertain. The varsity show this year did none of these things.

      • No way  

        can you say that last nights show was worse than 113 for a second. Also no way can you say that there was no dancing when there was by far the best dancing in years. They fucking tapped!

    • really now-  

      with the exception of last year's show- the previous two were just sad. you really can't say this is the worst. maybe it wasn't as funny as last year's, but it certainly knocked the previous two out of the park.

  12. Caesar's  

    Music was pretty incredible, I thought. A little sparse, but really added to the feel of the show. And yeah. Varsity show was a little pathetic.

  13. KCST Fan  

    JC was excellent. Dan really did an amazing job using campus as more than a backdrop. Wonderful work!!

    Also, COULD James Underwood be any hotter. Could he.

  14. vshow:  

    for me the only main issues were length and the sound, either you couldn't here them or there was feedback. overall it was a funny and entertaining show though.

  15. The acting  

    seemed great to me. Good choices on locations too. I saw it after VShow, and it was a hundred times more entertaining.

  16. absurd  

    are people really comparing Shakespeare and the Varsity Show?

  17. Facebook says...  

    The author's LastFM profile is called "ShutUpPortia." Seriously. I am not joking. This is the most unbiased "Shakespeare expert" Bwog could find?

    Nothing about the assassination? The funeral orations? No specific details past Act 2, Scene 3? The review reads like *you* left partway through.

  18. Caesar  

    Love it! The show is like a real world video game. A definite must see, despite it's typically Shakespearean length. You've gotta at least experience the crones!

  19. nooo  

    it sucked it was too long!!!

  20. wow

    This review is insane... Patrick Barrett and Jake Green are some of the best actors on campus. If you think the acting was bombastic, maybe you should try giving a speech on a completely open plaza with no acoustics or microphones to help you. They have to speak LOUDLY all the time, and it's almost impossible to be nuanced when you do that. But the acting was great nonetheless. People always leave halfway through, that's just the nature of the spring show... a lot of people come who aren't really that interested in theatre. But it doesn't reflect badly on the show itself.

    • Really  

      true. The fact that you could hear them from the back of the crowd and didn't look like they were shouting at the top of their lungs was really impressive. At the Friday night show, at least, some people left (it ended after 3 and most people had seen VShow before hand), but there was still a big crowd for the final scene.

  21. also

    Yeah, James Underwood is way hot.

  22. ralph

    Shakespeare Under the Stars Expert:

    What kind of "expert" expects subtlety from actors in front of 300 people, without mics, in the rain? Comical, really. Your review has the distinct air of grasping to sound witty without the requisite understanding of that which you review. Just as certain theater requires more than nuance, reviews require more than sardonic snides.

    While the show was not perfect, I believe there was ample reason to see it (to the end)--the funeral scene on the steps was great. I sincerely doubt this reviewer stayed until this scene. Her review lacks any detail save for a few comments about the beginning, typical of one who uses superior skills in bullshit to enhance inferior commentary and shallow understanding.

  23. Caesar was  

    terrific. Kudos to Dan Blank, who should definitely pursue Shakespeare professionally. Those of you who went to Caesar instead of the Varsity Show, you made the right decision.

  24. Fact:  

    This reviewer left early. This has been confirmed by several girls on her floor, as well as audience members who saw her. She has no right to criticize the show if she's not going to stick around for even half of it.

  25. What if

    Bwog created a section for reader reviews? That way many points of view could be represented, rather than just one.

  26. Ginia  

    The actor who played Brutus was amazing: really, really impressive.

  27. word.  

    there is only one way to describe this year's spring show: badass.

  28. sexy  

    i want to do antony.

  29. Excellent  

    I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. I had never seen a spring show before but the logistics of it sounded insane. All the way through was spectacular: the lighting, the use of the campus, the staging, the use of ensemble, the atmosphere, and last but certainly not least the acting. It completely engrossed me and I really felt like I was part of an experience. I could barely stand up and was exhausted but was compelled to stay until the wee hours of the morning. Kudos to all involved, you should be very proud.

  30. incredible  

    acting. amazing work by all the principals, and the mob seemed really into their roles. Patrick Barrett is one of the foxiest actors on campus. Antony though? Not sexy.
    Jake green, yes.

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