I had a an acting professor in college whose favorite comment to his actors that were clearly working very hard and showing great promise, but still missing the mark was, “Strong, but wrong.” This phrase kept echoing through my mind as I sat and watched A Noise Within’s production of Antony and Cleopatra. Overall it is a very solid, visually beautiful production. The actors were cast well and deliver believable performances. The set is well envisioned and directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott use the space wonderfully. Yet, for everything that was great, there was something that didn’t quite work. It was strong, but wrong.
At the top of the “Strong but wrong” list are Antony, played by Geoff Elliott, and Cleopatra, played by Susan Angelo. The direction given to both of these actors unfortunately took them down a road that just didn’t work for their characters. Elliott’s Antony, was overall, pretty pathetic. When things were going his way he was the strong, leader of his army. However, the second things didn’t go his way he would crumble, fall to his knees and cry. Juliet Capulet doesn’t even cry as much as this guy, and she’s a 13-year-old girl.
Of note, Cleopatra also doesn’t cry as much as Antony. She does however rail at her servants and behave like a spoilt child. Which some may argue that there really isn’t that much difference between a spoilt child and a spoilt queen, which is true. However, the difference is that a queen should have a nobility about her; a certain grace and elegance. Angelo’s Cleopatra lacked all nobility. She came across as common, accentuated by the fact that she sat like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The directors obviously had something in mind to make such strong choices for the two leading characters; unfortunately it didn’t translate in the production.
Tom Buderwitz’s set design is both simple in its design and complex in its usage. Employing tall platforms with exposed metal crossbeams as not only support but walkways underneath Buderwitz creates numerous possibilities for levels and entrances/exits that the directors use to great advantage. The space is used amazingly well. The battle at sea is epic in its element of surprise and use of space. However, the fights themselves left a lot to be desired. The fights were composed primarily of stock moves, executed slowly and poorly. The characters also made it abundantly clear that the swords they were fighting with were dull. Both Antony and Caesar routinely grabbed their weapons by the blade. At one point a sword is held aloft with the tip, and one can assume the weight of the sword, resting on the palm of Antony’s hand. It is no wonder that Antony has trouble killing himself at the end of the play. He has a dull sword!
However, this production is not wholly without merit. Robertson Dean as Enobarbus and Raphael Goldstein as Eros are fabulous. Max Rosnak as Caesar also does an excellent job. Despite his apparent youth he holds himself nobly and by the end of the production truly stands as the ruler that he has become. That being said, I would really love to ask costume designer, Angela Calin, why Caesar had a hole in his shoe? The third swordsman to the right had better shoes than Caesar. Again, strong, but wrong.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
Through May 13
Tickets: (626) 356-3100 or www.anoisewithin.org