>Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra

>Last night I saw the American Shakespeare Center’s production of Antony & Cleopatra at the Blackfriars Playhouse. The house was surprisingly full for a Wednesday night, which gives me hope for the future of the organization, the existence of which in our small town continues to amaze me.

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen this particular play performed before, and what struck me in it (apart from the eroticism, which seemed to upset one couple sufficiently in the first five minutes that they walked out) was the humor. Even as Mark Antony is near death, having fallen on his sword after being told that Cleopatra is dead, he is quite funny in his reaction to the news that, in fact, Cleo is alive. Or maybe the humor was in the delivery of the lines by Jan Knightley, who was terrific as Antony. John Harrell was also excellent as Octavius Caesar, but the highest honor here goes to Elisabeth Rodgers who was a wonderful Cleopatra, turning on a dime with the mercurial Queen.

From the director’s notes:

“A&C is my favorite work of art: in my view, the most sublime work of the hand of man . . . because it encompasses the world. Consider the opposites it embraces: man and woman, East and West, war and peace, work and play, sex and love, fortune and happiness, life and death. And, using laughter, it sneaks all this wisdom past ever obstacle our society has raised against it.”

Here’s something else it encompasses: supersonic travel. Throughout the play, scenes alternate between Alexandria and Rome, messengers arrive and depart constantly, Antony bounces back and forth, and yet there is no evidence of travel. It’s as if they went around the block or, at most, hopped the shuttle. Curious.

In any case, it’s a fine production.

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