The Reed College Theatre’s production of “Julius Caesar,” now beginning the second week of its two-week run, is many things. It is the final production by Kathleen Worley, the head of the theatre department, after her thirty-year dedication to the performing arts at Reed. Also, it is the sound design thesis of Jenn Lidell ’14, and the final performance of ebullient senator and Reed Relieves administrator, Andrew Watson ’14.
Worley’s ambition is obvious in this production, which, according to the program, is set in “rock’n’roll Rome.” This aesthetic is carried out in Broadway rock-opera style, with heavy use of black leather and glitter. Kevin Synder ’16 plays a Caesar who looks like he stepped right out of Ziggy Stardust’s closet — knee-high sparkly platforms and all.
Worley collaborated with students to make this production even more glam rock glamorous. Music major Jack Johnson ’14 wrote an original score for the production, and newcomer to the Reed mainstage Sean Key-Ketter ’17 collaborated with Colin Trevor ’15 to choreograph the play’s numerous fights.
Look out especially for the rumble between Stella Baker ’15 and Belle Aykroyd ’15 in the fifth act — I’ve seen it more than once and it is exhilaratingly gory every time.
Despite all of the show’s glitz, it seems to be missing something essential. Though Worley says that the play “investigates the ‘star power’ of Caesar,” there is very little sense that the play was attempting to investigate anything at all. Shakespeare’s histories, when directed with a probing political question in mind, offer the chance to examine the hypocrisy — and, indeed, the obsession with personality — what one might call “star power” — in politics today. Worley’s “Caesar” does not seem to want to delve into the complicated motives offered by Shakespeare’s characters and is not as thought-provoking as it could have been. Many of Mark Antony’s lines, which show him to be as calculating and manipulative as Cassius and Brutus, have been cut — leaving him a wholesome, all-American man, loyal and uncomplicated. The performance by Lily Harris ’16 is strong, but the material she is working from is not nearly as complex as it could be.
Overall, this production of “Julius Caesar” is an enjoyable spectacle. It is well acted, and the high-quality performances by all of the new actors are especially impressive. The glam rock/hair metal theme makes for a fun update of a classic play. Check the show out to support your friends and community members, to say goodbye to our esteemed professor Kathleen Worley, and to enjoy an entertaining evening of rock’n’roll Rome.
Th/Fri/Sat at 7:30 PM
$3 for Reed students, faculty, and staff
$5 for non-Reed students and senior citizens.
$7 for general admission