BEWARE THE LEADER WHO BANGS THE DRUM OF WAR
by Andrew Turner
published January 30, 2009
Caesar and Cleopatra
now playing at the Clurman on Theatre Row
through February 7
“I came, I saw, I conquered.” Lines you will not hear in the Resonance Theatre Ensemble’s production of Caesar and Cleopatra, now playing on Theatre Row, but lines lead actor Chris Ceraso could have definitely
uttered. He delivers an excellent performance as Caesar in George Bernard Shaw’s classic play, adapted by Eric Overmyer.
Ceraso’s Caesar is wry and relaxed, never without a quip or kind word for friend and foe. The ultimate strategist, he maintains
his sang-froid in even the most stressful situation. The only time he loses his cool is when Cleopatra, in a fit of spite, murders the
advisor of her younger brother.
The part of the fabled Egyptian queen is played by Wrenn Shmidt. Schmidt is the perfect foil for Ceraso’s Caesar: where he is
unruffled and level-headed, she is stormy and passionate; where he is soft-spoken and cool, she is whiny and petulant.
The two initially meet when Caesar, on his way to conquer yet another empire, stops by the Sphinx for a chat. While waxing poetic
about the loneliness of being a legend, he spies a lump sleeping near the base – Cleopatra. It turns out that she has come there to
sacrifice one of the sacred white temple cats to the Sphinx in the hopes that he will be able to protect her from Caesar who, as all
Egyptians know, had a tiger for a father and a burning mountain for a mother and hopes to eat her first chance he gets.
He takes the young queen under his wing, tutoring her in the art of being a dictator. Just as he is charmed by her fiery naïveté,
so is she fascinated by his poise. It is a complex, fun relationship, brilliantly written by Shaw, and staged to perfection by director
It is fortuitous that the leads are solid because the supporting cast leaves something to be desired. With the exception of
Geraldine Librandi, who delivers a splendid performance as Cleopatra’s stern yet steadfast nanny, Ftatateeta (say that three times fast),
they are all rather wooden and stereotypical. There are set design issues as well. The paper mache Sphinx, in particular, looks like a
giant, wobbly Snoopy.
Quibbles. As a whole, this is a quality production, well-worth the meager eighteen dollars this noble non-profit is asking. So do
yourself a favor and march across the Rubicon and into the theatre. Ave Caesar!
andrewturner @ stageandcinema.com