Theater Reviews

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The Duke on 42nd Street, New York
Through May 2


There's a significant problem with a production of William Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" when the titular figures are less interesting than the supporting characters.

Such is the case with this production by the Theatre for a New Audience, starring veteran stage actress Laila Robins and Marton Csokas in the leading roles. While both performers possess the necessary visual appeal and flair for the language, they never succeed in signifying the requisite passion as the star-crossed lovers.

Indeed, it is Csokas' Antony who is the more sensual of the two. The frequently bare-chested, well-built actor gives his character a decidedly kinky bent, at one point clearly enjoying a little S&M play. Robins' Cleopatra is more subdued by comparison, as the actress downplays the seductive aspects of her Egyptian queen with sometimes tedious results.

Director Darko Tresnjak has updated the action to the late 19th century, mostly it seems, to thematically link the production to the others in the TNA's season, dubbed "Africa, Europe, America: Exploring the Connections."

The results are largely underwhelming -- especially in the costume department, with the Romans made to look like British soldiers, complete with bland khaki uniforms and pith elements.

The setting is hardly reflected in the relatively simple set design, consisting mainly of a glossy wall, several sliding doors, and a small downstage pool laden with decorative tiles. To remind us of the updating, a photographer wielding a vintage camera is periodically brought out to snap a few pictures.

While the large supporting cast is wildly uneven, at least two manage to steal whatever scenes they're in. John Douglas Thompson is highly commanding, both physically and vocally, as Enobarbus, and Jeffrey Carlson provides his Octavius Caesar with such an entertainingly creepy demeanor that he seems to be auditioning for the role of another Roman emperor, Caligula.

The staging includes touches both effective (the battle scenes are hauntingly done in silhouette) and extraneous (having Cleopatra visibly pregnant for one scene).

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
Presented by Theatre for a New Audience
Credits:
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Darko Tresnjak
Set designer: Alexander Dodge
Costume designer: Linda Cho
Lighting designer: York Kennedy
Sound designer: Jane Shaw
Cast:
Antony: Marton Csokas
Cleopatra: Laila Robins
Octavious Caesar: Jeffrey Carlson
Lepidus: George Morfogen
Enobarbus: John Douglas Thompson
Eros: Randy Harrison
Dercetas: Matthew Schneck
Agrippa: Grant Goodman
Maecenas: Nathan Blew
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