The clanking of Lelya Davis’ five inch stilettos echoed throughout the Little Theatre. The citizens of Rome were circled around her, anxiously awaiting her powerful words. The audience could feel the tension slowly building in the room.
Theatre Ink put on “Julius Caesar,” their 35th joint Shakespeare play, May 10 through 12 in the Little Theater. North theater teacher Michael Barrington-Haber directed the show, and the show was a collaboration with Newton South’s theater program, South Stage.
“Julius Caesar” centers around the fall of the Roman Republic. It tells the story of Julius Caesar, the dictator of Rome in 44 BC. Though Caesar had some admirers, countless people in Rome thought he was unfit to rule. The show illustrates the conflict between Caesar and Brutus, another Roman politician, and the aftermath of Caesar’s death.
The cast put on a different, more modern take of Shakespeare’s original play. The show explores themes, such as gender roles and politics, that pertain to our society today, while still keeping Shakespeare’s language.
The opening scene of the show depicted this modernity. Screens around the Little Theatre that showed news reports with bold headlines while the actors spoke.
“The vision of Mike was to portray Julius Caesar through the modern perspective. One screen was portraying the army of Brutus, and the other was portraying the viewpoint from the army of Caesar,” said South freshman Abigail Arndt. She added that the screens had conflicting messages. “In our social media today, we get conflicting messages, and we don’t know what’s real.” This choice helped the audience connect with the play because they could relate to the issue of conflicting messages in the media, and gave the show a unique point of interest.
When Caesar came on to the stage, he was the center of attention. North junior Achille Rica, who played Caesar, had long monologues, but he said them confidently and without hesitation. The power in his voice matched the character of Julius Caesar.
Caesar’s enemy, Brutus, played by North sophomore Lelya Davis, had the charisma and power of Caesar, but an additional aspect of sophistication and grace. Even though Brutus is traditionally played by a man, Lelya captured his spirit effectively by keeping his fiery passion.
Though both Caesar and Brutus were strong characters, the production focused more on society than the individual. This was to show how easily society follows a powerful leader. This idea was conveyed by the fact that many actors played multiple society members in the production. The cast quickly and skillfully changed their role, and looked comfortable playing their character. This also supported the idea that the actors’ were all a part of a larger group.
Senior Evelyn Chedekel added that you also do not have time to change mentally. “After a point, it’s not you controlling the scene, it’s the scene controlling you,” she said.
The almost mechanic nature of the show was impressive. When the cast fought with swords during Battle of Philippi, which was between Mark Antony and Brutus’ armies, they used fluid, sharp motions, but did not seem overly emotional. The casts handled death scenes with the perfect mix of drama and solemnity.
Ultimately, what made this production unique was the collaboration between North and South. “I really enjoyed being in a production that had the communities of North and South joined together. The theater programs are a little bit different at both schools, so it was nice to have both experiences,” said South freshman Abigail Arndt.