Antony and Cleopatra (ASPBoston): To the mattresses

Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 4/27/11-5/21/11.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photo by Stratton McCrady

Actors’ Shakespeare Project continues to bring intelligible Shakespeare to Boston.  One of Shakespeare’s most complicated plots of politics and passion, Antony and Cleopatra can leave Shakespeare neophytes confused and questioning.  This production provides a clear path for understanding and appreciation of the text.

The backdrop, designed by Jeff Adelberg, looks like a collection of mattress coils that make up a wall.  This suggestive detail reflects Antony’s decision-making processes.  Antony is caught up in his love and does not recognize the ever-present threat of his fellow triumvirate colleague, Octavius.  Octavius uses Antony’s distraction to destroy the triumvirate and become emperor of Rome.

James Andreassi, as Antony, and Paula Plum, as Cleopatra play the doomed lovers.  Andreassi and Plum are both strong actors, but they lack the chemistry and passion needed for these two leaders.  Antony and Cleopatra’s political decisions are more a product of their conversations between the sheets than with any advisors.  Paula Plum’s Cleopatra comes off doddering, foolish, and weak.  While Cleopatra is one of the major rulers of the time, Plum’s version lacks any underlying strength of will that would sustain Cleopatra at any time during her rule; if she truly was nothing but a woman completely turned by her emotions and other people’s sway, then she would have fallen to Julius Caesar or any of the attacks upon her country.  Cleopatra may be emotional and at times foolish due to her passion, but she is fully in control of herself, her kingdom, and her faculties up until the time she dies.  Ms. Plum’s performance does not carry that underlying will.  Andreassi plays Antony as a true Roman soldier who has lost the political desires of his youth and now only wants to be with his love.  Andreassi’s world-weary, beaten-down figure of Antony, however, does not evoke any semblance passion for Cleopatra–which is the reason he turns away from battle and honor.  This Antony seems more inclined to leave and both he and Cleopatra seem restrained and not truly affectionate.

The rest of the cast provides support and energy to the play.  Doug Lockwood portrays a politically shrewd Octavius.  Octavius uses the flaws of his comrades to become emperor of Rome.  The actions of Octavius are carefully planned out to contrast Octavius’ discipline with Antony’s recklessness.  Octavius sees that Antony is more interested in Cleopatra than matters of state and takes the opportunity to attack Antony.  Mara Sidmore’s Charmian gives Cleopatra the strength and reason to press on under all circumstances.  Jesse Hinson, Johnnie McQuarley, and Richard Snee bring energy through their portrayal of soldiers and servants.  Giselle Ty provides innocence through her portrayal of Octavia, the sister of Octavius, who is tossed between her brother and Antony as a pawn of covenant and betrayal.  Octavius knows of Antony’s proclivities for Cleopatra and still lets Antony marry Octavia to bring peace between himself and Antony.  Octavius then uses Antony’s disinterest in Octavia as a catalyst to legitimize his aggression towards Antony.

While not perfect, Actors’ Shakespeare Project still delivers a solid performance and production.  However, the production loses some of its honesty by remaining too controlled and reserved.  It relies on the energy of the supporting actors to keep the play moving even though the passion that should be the fulcrum of the play is not there.  TNETG.  4/30/11.


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