Friends, Romans, countrymen: Park Slope’s Gallery Players present a stellar ‘Julius Caesar’
Brooklyn now has a “Julius Caesar” of its very own.
The Gallery Players in Park Slope are presenting a new rendition of William Shakespeare’s blood-soaked tragedy.
There’s no Donald Trump doppelganger playing the title role like there was in the Public Theater’s controversial Shakespeare in the Park production in Manhattan.
Nevertheless, Brooklyn’s “Julius Caesar” is stellar, a whirlwind of passion and politics that sweeps you up and carries you away.
The Park Slope theater group has compressed the Bard’s famous play, which was probably written in 1599, into 16 high-impact scenes.
But don’t misunderstand. This isn’t Shakespeare Lite. It’s the real deal, and it’s powerful stuff.
“Julius Caesar” is full of profoundly thought-provoking themes that are relevant to America’s tumultuous political climate.
These themes include the danger of resorting to violence to overthrow a nation’s ruler — even when the goals are liberty, freedom and the eradication of tyranny, to paraphrase the rallying cry of Caesar’s nemesis, Brutus. Political repression and civil war are the ruinous consequences, as the play spells out in heart-wrenching detail.
A high-minded idealist and a steely-hearted schemer
The modern-dress production, which has just opened, is directed by James Dean Palmer. It features skilled young actors in the key roles of the Roman ruler Caesar, the chief conspirators against him, Brutus and Cassius, and Caesar’s avenger Marc Antony.
Their youthfulness gives them an extra layer of glamor and charisma.
Griffin Sharps is a magnetic Caesar — a bearded hipster with great tattoos who is by turns imperious, paranoid and seductive.
David Glover is an idealistic, impassioned Brutus. His preppy glasses, tweed jacket and thoughtful demeanor suggest a young philosophy professor.
Thanks to gender-blind casting, actress Erin Anderson plays Cassius. She’s a steely-hearted schemer who deftly manipulates high-minded Brutus, drawing him into her faction’s plot to assassinate Caesar.
Drew Ledbetter does a masterful job as Marc Antony, whose funeral oration for Caesar is one of the most brilliant political speeches in English-language theater.
It’s the one that famously begins, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
During the oration, a seething Roman mob stands in the theater aisles, which is a smart piece of staging. It implicitly turns audience members into mob members, too.
There are lots of other smart touches in the production. For example, when the conspirators murder Caesar, they’re wearing white shirts, and so is he. This maximizes the shock value of the realistic-looking blood that is spilled.
There are skilled Shakespeareans handling the secondary roles. One of them is Elisha Mudly, who plays Brutus’ wife, Portia.
In a scene in which she begs her husband to confide in her about why he’s in a state of high anxiety, her eyes gleam with tears.
When she asks him, “Dwell I but in the suburbs of your good pleasure?” the anguish is real.
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The Gallery Players’ production of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” runs through July 30.
Performances are on Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 3 p.m.
The group’s theater is at 199 14th St. in Park Slope.
Go to bleedingpieceofearth.com for tickets or call OvationTix at 212-352-3101.
General-admission tickets are $25; tickets for seniors and kids under 12 are $20.
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