Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Coriolanus"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


"Coriolanus"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Walsh

Movement Design by Karen Krolak
Lighting Design by Scott Clyve
Costume Design by Molly Trainer
Percussion Design by Stephen Serwacki
Choral Design by Karen Kopryanski
Assistant Directors Naya Chang, Risher Reddick
Production Manager Jason Ries
Stage Manager Sarah Hilary Johnson

Caius Martius Coriolanus................Ben Evett
Tullus Aufidius.......................Ted Hewlett
Menenius Agrippa......................Ron Goldman
Volumnia.........................Bobbie Steinbach
Cominus...........................Robert Najarian
Junius Brutus.............Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Sicinius Velutus......................Noah Tuleja
Young Martius........Aidan Crimmins/Spencer Evett
Virgilia/Ensemble.................Susannah Melone
Valeria/Ensemble...................Hannah Husband
Titus Larius/Ensemble.................Jerrell Leo
Gentlewoman/Ensemble...................Giselle Ty
First Senator/Ensemble.................Curt Klump
Herald/Ensemble.....................Alex LaFrance
Volscian Senator/Ensemble..............Joel Perez

"Coriolanus" is so seldom done that it feels like a whole new play --- thus it is a fitting "premiere" for the Actors' Shakespeare Project. It tells of a brave and honest Roman warrior whose pride and anger turn him against his own people. His contempt for both the rabble --- who fear he would turn tyrant if elected Consul --- and for the compromises politics demands tarnish the exploits of his sword and bring him low. But this bare-bones summary cannot show the sounds and spectacle that fill this huge stage with movement and passion.

It begins in darkness with the scuttle of running feet, indistinct voices rising as dim lights rise on a moiling mob shouting fears and curses at Caius Martius Coriolanus. They are dressed as jobless workmen from the 1930's in ill-fitting browns and wear flat caps, porkpies, and here and there an old fedora. In their hands are steel tools --- wrenches, axes, in one case a hammer and a sickle --- struck together in clangorous anger. Their leader (Curt Klump back from New York) cites Martius as the proud and greedy cause of their hunger --- when into their midst, defending him, steps Menenius Agrippa (Ron Goldman), a grey-bearded man in a suit, then Martius himself (Ben Evett). And into this argument breaks a messenger: the Volskies are in arms and led by Tullus Aufidius, Martius' respected adversary in earlier clashes.

Percussion Designer Stephen Serwacki and Movement Designer Karen Krolak have turned the ensuing battle into ballet. Kicks and flips and tumbles, performed to beaten-steel and loud drumming, fill the stage with dizzying action. It comes, however, to Martius and Ofidius center-stage in single combat --- a magnificent effect! They face one another inside a steel cage, their weapons clashing gainst a separating screen, one slowly rising as the other tires and falls. This is Martius in triumph at the gates of Corioli, thus winning the name Coriolanus.

But the field of battle is more easy won than deserved honors in the field of politics. Martius bristles at the custom of baring wounds got in wars --- he calls it bragging and will have none of it. His war with the Roman rabble is such to have him banished, and thus to throw in with Ofidius against his own country.

In these wrangles over a Consul-ship, the only advice that sways this warrior comes from his mother --- a tiny woman ten-feet tall whenever she speaks. I speak of Bobbie Steinbach, a powerhouse of eloquent invective and pride in her soldier son.

Robert Walsh as director has melded all these elements into a stunning, clear-eyed revival of a difficult, neglected play. He has called forth a tornado of physical and verbal energy from Ben Evett yet making clear every line by everyone on the stage. It feels much as though we have been given a new play by the hand of this old master.

"Coriolanus" (12 March - 5 April)
ACTORS' SHAKESPEARE PROJECT
@ The Center for The Arts at The Armory, 191 Highland Avenue, SOMERVILLE MA
1 (866)811-4111

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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