Few words convey such depth of meaning. And it is passion – for love, for power, for an immortal place in history – that’s at the heart of the story of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and Roman ruler Mark Antony.
William Shakespeare tells this tale in his play “Antony & Cleopatra,” and McCarter Theatre presents it on its Princeton, NJ stage through October 5.
Encompassing more lust, lies and liaisons than any daytime drama or reality TV show, the play illuminates a pivotal historical moment, when a civil war led to the end of the RomanRepublic and the creation of the Roman Empire.
And at the center is the complex and consuming love affair between Cleopatra and Antony.
Emily Mann, McCarter’s Artistic Director and the director of this production, has always loved this play. On McCarter’s website, Mann explains, “Steeped in character and relationships, containing some of the most beautiful poetry Shakespeare ever wrote, the struggle for power between the leaders of the ancient world is both passionately personal and personally political.”
There’s that passion again.
The actors –Nicole Ari Parker as Cleopatra and Esau Pritchett as Antony – bring to their roles a sensuality and intimacy rarely seen on the stage, and portray these larger-than-life characters in a way that allows the audience to feel like more than mere spectators. Not only do Parker and Pritchett’s characters clearly convey their strong connection to one another, but, through their personal interactions, they also demonstrate the turmoil outside their private world.
The costumes and the set also add to the overall atmosphere. Both are evocative of period and place while also effectively bridging the multi-century gap in time.
In an interview that appears on the McCarter website, costume designer Paul Tazewell explained how he and the director worked together to develop the costumes. Their objective, he said, was to focus primarily on the central themes of love and power while maintaining a strong sense of cultural authenticity. “It’s a fairly contemporary style interpretation,” Tazewell said. “The clothing shapes are influenced both by Ancient Egypt and modern fashion.”
The set also successfully blends old and new elements. At the start, designer Daniel Ostling had imagined something contemporary. As the process evolved, however, he decided on a different idea. Borrowing from both origami and Egyptian art, Ostling created a dramatic surface that looks like folded gold. “It feels really elegant,” he said.
Performances are on most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. In addition, there are Post-Show Discussions on Wednesday, September 17 and Sunday, September 21; Dialogue on Drama with Director Emily Mann on Sunday, September 14; Dinner & Theater on Wednesday, October 1; and several opportunities to partake in a Sunday Brunch and performance package.
And Inside Story, a 20-minute talk led by a member of the play’s artistic staff, is held prior to all performances. For additional details and updates, please refer to the calendar.
And, remember to carefully consider your apparel choices when you go to McCarter Theatre to see “Antony & Cleopatra.” Chances are good that it will get quite steamy in there!
Editor’s note: There are now fabulous production photos on McCarter’s website, as well. Check them out: http://www.mccarter.org/antonyandcleopatra/2-about/photos.html.