Wednesday, May 22, 2019
‘Julius Caesar’ Rings True in Today’s Political Climate
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Brett Moellenberg plays Brutus.
 
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SPOT

There are no villains in “Julius Caesar,” despite that famous line “Et Tu, Brutus?” and whatever you might think about the conspirators against the Roman Republic’s greatest general.

Take Brutus, for instance. He’s at war with himself the entire play, knowing in his heart what’s right but easily manipulated. And he convinces himself that killing Caesar is what’s right for Rome, even as he vacillates between honor, patriotism and friendship.

 
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Samuel Mollner is The Spot's technical director and resident lighting designer.
 

“His real love is for Rome—he convinces himself that what he’s doing is right, that it’s a super clear choice,” said Brett Moellenberg.

Moellenberg will portray Brutus, who took the lead role in assassinating Caesar, this week and next when The Spot stages what is one of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies.

The play starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, May 2 through 5 at The Spot, 220 Lewis St. in Ketchum. It will return Thursday through Saturday, May 9 through 11.

The play, believed to have been written in 1599, is one of several Shakespeare plays inspired by Roman history.

 
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The minimalist set makes use of cubes and special lighting.
 

Julius Caesar has just returned from defeating the sons of Pompey when a soothsayer warns him to “Beware the Ides of March.” Indeed, there are some who believe Caesar is abusing his power, threatening Rome’s very democracy.

Among them is Cassius, a high-ranking Roman general and member of the Roman elite, who begs Brutus to join in the conspiracy to kill Caesar.

“He doesn’t take joy in the simple things in life. He has strong convictions about honor and loyalty and fights for those beliefs throughout the play,” said Patrick Mazzella, who plays Cassius.

The opposite of Cassius is Marc Antony played by Kagen Albright. He takes great joy in the simple things in life, including drinking and making merry. But he experiences a complete shift after Caesar is killed. He has a need for revenge,” said Albright.

In short, “Julius Caesar” is a cautionary tale, warning of the perils of power, misinformation, tyranny and the act of passing judgment. Good men do bad things, and their actions are accompanied by swift consequences.

“It’s fascinating in that questions who’s right and who’s wrong,” said the Director Kevin Wade. “It’s fascinating in the play and it’s fascinating now as we have a very divided political landscape in which everyone thinks he’s right.’

“This play, in particular, speaks to our current political climate,” agreed Sara Gorby, who plays Caesar’s wife Calpurnia. “This is a good time to hear the story again.”

Calpurnia is just as interesting a character study as the others, Gorby said. Her marriage to Caesar was arranged as part of a political union, but the two grew to love one another.

“And Julius listens to her views since she’s from a political family. But he doesn’t listen to her dreams predicting his death. That’s frustrating for her as a woman who thinks she has power but realizes she doesn’t. And it’s difficult for her to realize her husband has become power hungry,” Gorby added.

This is Moellenberg’s favorite Shakespeare piece.

“It’s one of the most super uncomplicated as far as plot. You really get to see a character go on a complex journey. And you see how a group of people rise up to do something and, as so often happens, everything falls apart.”

This is the second Shakespeare play The Spot has produced—the first one being “Macbeth.”

It’s being staged in many theaters around the country this year, including Boise where Idaho Shakespeare Festival will stage it this summer. But Wade says he believes this is the first time it’s ever been staged in Sun Valley.

“It’s good timing since we’ve been so interested in how elections can be influenced digitally,” he said.  “Shakespeare’s stories are so universal. There are none in which the message doesn’t ring true—that’s why he is still the most widely produced playwright in the world. And this is a story about what’s right and wrong, about what constitutes a threat to democracy.”

The prose is beautiful but very simple, straightforward and easy to understand, compared with some of Shakespeare’s writings, added Albright: “Even if people think they have trouble understanding Shakespeare, they’ll understand us.”

The original play features more than 40 characters, but Natalie Battistone has cut out some and melded others together. Still, each of the actors plays more than one character.

The cast features Yanna Lantz as Portia, Sara Gorby as Calpurnia, Rachael Aanestad as Decius Brutus, Peter Burke as Julius Caesar, Kagen Albright as Marc Antony, Brett Moellenberg as Brutus, Chris Henderson as Casca, Patrick Mazzella as Cassius and Kevin Wade as the soothsayer.

Samuel Mollner designed the lighting and Moellenberg and Wade, the stage combat.

The play will be staged in one configuration The Spot hasn’t used yet, with risers on both sides of the theater. The set is minimalist—with cubes.

Tickets are $25 for the general audience and $13 for those under 30. Tickets are available at www.spotsunvalley.com.

Run time is two hours and 15 minutes with intermission. The play is recommended for ages 10 and older as there will be simulated violence and blood.

 

 

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