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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

RUBBERBAND Dance Group to Make Its Ohio Debut on Nov. 9 at the Ohio Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 5:39 PM

COURTESY OF TRI-C
  • Courtesy of Tri-C
Earlier this week, Tri-C and DANCECleveland announced that RUBBERBAND Dance Group (RBDG) would make its Ohio debut in a performance sponsored by the two local organizations.

The Montreal-based dance troupe performs at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Mimi Ohio Theatre as part of the Tri-C Performing Arts season.

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Convergence's 'Homos, or Everyone In America' Elicits Laughter and Love With Dynamic Performances

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 9:58 AM

PHOTO BY EVA NEL BRETTRAGER
  • Photo by Eva Nel Brettrager

What do you get when you mix together Will & Grace, a heaping dose of acerbic, sex-fueled humor, a pinch of Christopher Nolan’s Memento and a dash of social commentary that— given the material and quite expressive title— can’t help but seep through? You get Jordan Seavey’s Homos, or Everyone in America, a play that flaunts its subject material as proudly as a rainbow flag.

Like the flag, the play is loud and in-your-face, but holds a profound message.
The crew at Convergence-Continuum and Director Clyde Simon clearly understand the purpose of a play like Homos and have given it a stellar treatment, taking its concept and immersing its audience into, essentially, a snapshot story of a relationship that bears resemblance to something so genuine it almost feels intrusive. The intimate space of the Liminus is utilized to its peak potential.

The play centers around an unnamed writer (Nate Homolka) and an academic (Kieron Cindric), two gay man on opposite ends of the Myers-Briggs scale. The writer is slightly uptight, narcissistic and has a tendency to label people, while the academic is more expressive, always optimistic and generally more carefree. The two find themselves meeting on Friendster—in case you wanted to know when this was set— and throughout the run time, their relationship is encapsulated into fragments, each a few minutes long, played out of chronological order and then partially back in order to show the peaks and valleys of their relationship. It emphasizes the more hostile and argumentative exchanges and juxtaposes those with the more sweet and loving moments. There is betrayal, intrigue, lust, love at first upchuck and even hints at introducing a threesome, a desire only partially expressed by the writer.

Wedged in the middle of the couple is Dan (Corey East), another conventionally attractive gay man who becomes friends with the academic first, but slowly becomes a mutual friend of both of the men, and their relationship flirts with a "will they, won’t they" kind of love triangle.

These segments of their relationship are reflected by some cinematic mood lighting by Eva Nel Brettrager and sound design by Austin Hopson. The sound effects vary from crisp swooshes and swishes to off-stage, piped-in crowd chants and even physical props for some noises that may even make you jump out of your seat. Additionally, props to costume designer Scott Zolkowski for finding multifaceted outfits as well as some outrageous pride clothing, particularly for East’s character in one scene set during a marriage equality rally.

Productions such as this hinge on incredible performances to keep the audience’s attention, and they may have found the two most capable people to carry this particular story.

Homolka beams with confidence, gushing with caustic wit and an — ironically— straight-man routine that pairs well with Cindric’s flamboyancy. Meanwhile, Cindric explodes with emotion and waxes poetic, along with some perverse quips, with excellent comedic timing and a poise that would make Sean Hayes blush.

Together, the two share an inseparable chemistry that makes the audience feel every nuanced conflict, argument, moment of passion and connection and everything in-between. Both debuting at Convergence with this particular production, they are sure to both become instant fan-favorites.

As the buffer in between the two quarreling on-again-off-again lovers, East displays the best qualities of both men in his performance, combining a lighthearted presence with his own fair share of dry cadence, especially in his scenes with Homolka.

Additionally, Rocky Encalada makes quite the expression, even with essentially a one-scene appearance as Leila, a bubbly, affectionate Lush employee who shares a touching moment with Homolka.

On the topic of Lush, it’s almost as if the play was sponsored by the store itself. Without any ill word against the franchise— as the capacity of being able to hate on fragrant soaps is laughable— its inclusion instead of the use of a generic stand-in name is probably the most jarring creative choice in the production.

The highest praise for this play is the exceptional dialogue within Seavey’s script and its execution. The flow and dictation bear their teeth for a conversational, relaxing tone with instances that carry a bit of bite, feeling at times authentically harsh and bitter, yet still staying within its tone and never past the point of being cruel, or ending an actual relationship with the appropriate context.

Seavey even toys with the idea of flipping the switch from lighthearted banter to explosive conflict on a dime, just to keep the audience on its toes. The verbal stones thrown in scenes like those are so well-crafted, it may inspire those attending to add some of the more colorful clapbacks into their repertoire. We would be remiss to quote them as many of the best ones are entirely NSFW.

Unabashedly blunt and fiercely seething with passion, Homos is more than just a witty comedy. It’s got some serious storytelling chops and a sobering observation of being gay, whether within the tail end of the Bush administration in which this play takes place or even today. Homos makes its audience fall in love with it, and it will break your heart, make you laugh and even make you think. Convergence-Continuum welcomes those lured by its inane humor to take that trip, and come out the other side with an important message about acceptance and optimism for the future of human rights and equality.

“Homos, or Everyone In America” through Nov. 9 at the Convergence-Continuum Theatre (2438 Scranton Rd., 216-687-0074, convergence-continuum.org.)

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Zohn Collective and La Coperacha Play the Cleveland Museum of Art Tonight

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2019 at 11:57 AM

COURTESY CLEVELAND CLASSICAL
  • Courtesy Cleveland Classical
It is often impossible to say why a work of art captivates you to the point of becoming an obsession. Such is the case for composer Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and Juan Rulfo’s novel Pedro Páramo. In his program notes for his scenic cantata Comala, Zohn-Muldoon writes: “To explain why Pedro Páramo moves me so deeply is beyond my capabilities as an essayist.”

On Friday, October 18 at 7:30 pm in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium, the Zohn Collective will present “Portals,” which pairs Comala with the world premiere of Daniel Pesca’s Nocturnes, a setting of four poems by Irving Feldman. Conducted by Timothy Weiss, performers include soprano Tony Arnold and tenor Zach Finkelstein, with La Coperacha Puppet Company. The performance is part of CMA’s Performing Arts Series. Tickets are available online.

“This is a piece I’ve been composing on and off for all of my adult life,” Zohn-Muldoon said of Comala during a telephone interview. “Every time it gets performed I add a new theme — I just finished one that will be premiered on this occasion — so now it’s gotten very large.”

Comala was premiered by The Furious Band at the Festival Música y Escena in México City in 2001. A later version was recorded for Bridge Records in 2010 by the Eastman BroadBand. The following year, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music composition, and was awarded the Lillian Fairchild Award. Since then the work has continued to grow with the creation of new scenes that give voice to additional characters from the novel. The current version, comprising 24 scenes, was completed for this tour, which also includes stops in Oberlin (Oct. 16) and Chicago (Oct. 20).

Although Zohn-Muldoon calls the piece a concert work, he’s always felt it should include a theatrical element. “I always wanted to do the staging with puppets,” he said, “but for one reason or another it never happened.” That is, until the Collective was invited to perform at the Festival Cultural de Mayo in Guadalajara in 2018 and was paired with La Coperacha, a celebrated puppet company based in that city.

The composer said that Comala is a tragic love story as well as a search for identity. “A man comes to a village and eventually figures out that everyone he is meeting is actually a spirit. But this is not clear at the beginning because they appear to him as people.”

Why was he certain that puppets would be the right choice for the staging? “One of the things that attracted me to puppets is that they are actually an alter-ego. They are inanimate, but once a person starts working with them, even though you see the operator, you are taken by the idea that the puppet has life. There’s this kind of magic. I love the idea of disassociation — you see people who are alive and puppets who are not, but there comes a point when you don’t know who is alive and who isn’t.”

In Comala, Zohn-Muldoon juxtaposes singing (the spirits) with speech (the people who are alive). “The spirits have all the time in the world, so they can sing as much as they want. And in real life, we use speech because we’re impatient and always in a hurry. I feel that is reflected in the puppets.”

The puppet design by Antonio Camacho, director of La Coperacha, was inspired by Alejandro Santiago’s sculpture project 2501 migrants. Zohn-Muldoon explained that Santiago left his village in Oaxaca to study in Paris. When he returned, nearly all the people had left the village. “They were gone because they were migrating to the U.S. to look for work. Santiago decided to make a clay sculpture for each person who had left the village — there were 2,501 because he counted himself a migrant.”

Zohn-Muldoon said he first thought the idea of pairing Rulfo’s novel with Santiago’s sculpture project was unusual, but he soon realized that the two works were speaking to the same subject. “Life changes, places become empty, and all you have left is an embodied memory of what there used to be.”

The idea for “Portals” began to take shape right after the festival in Guadalajara, and it began the way most projects begin: “Some other members of the Collective and I were talking over coffee, which makes everything seem great, and then of course it was like, how do we make it happen?”

Soon after the fundraising began, they realized that a second piece was needed, one that would make the project bi-national — a counterpart to Comala but with a text by an American author. “Daniel Pesca, the pianist in the group, is a very fine composer, and one of the members of the group had been in touch with the famous poet Irving Feldman, who lives in Chicago. Daniel looked at many of Feldman’s poems and selected ones that reflect on some of the themes of Comala, but from a very different poetic perspective.”

Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 15, 2019.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

CityMusic Cleveland Begins its New Season, and the Rest of the Classical Music to Catch This Week

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:32 PM

COURTESY CITYMUSIC CLEVELAND
  • Courtesy CityMusic Cleveland

Northeast Ohio’s two itinerant orchestras are both performing around the region beginning on Thursday this week.

Apollo’s Fire is touring “Echoes of Venice,” polychoral compositions by Gabrieli and Monteverdi which raised the temperature of music in the “Most Serene Republic” around the turn of the 17th century and launched a whole new, opulent style. Boston’s early brass ensemble, the Dark Horse Consort, joins Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Singers, and vocal soloists Amanda Powell, Raha Mirzadegan, and Jacob Perry in works by Venetian composers, as well as Germans who journeyed south and brought the splendor of Venice back home. Performances run through Sunday in four venues. Check our Concert Listings for details, and reserve tickets online.

CityMusic Cleveland begins its season with new music director Amit Peled and four concerts around the region titled “Between Two Giants.” The free programs include Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Jessie Montgomery’s Strum, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 104. Check our Concert Listings for details of the performances, which run through Sunday. The concerts are free.

With New York Philharmonic conductor Jaap van Zweden having cancelled due to a family medical problem, The Cleveland Orchestra’s concerts this week will be led by Klaus Mäkelä. On Thursday, October 17 at 7:30 pm, and Friday and Saturday, October 18 and 19 at 8:00 pm, violinist Augustin Hadelich will be featured in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. The Orchestra will launch the programs with Messiaen’s Les Offrande oubliées and conclude with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Tickets can be reserved online through the Severance Hall box office.

Cleveland’s new music ensemble No Exit will present an evening of electronic music at Appletree Books on Friday, October 18 at 7:00 pm. The playlist includes Luciano Berio’s Thema (Omaggio a Joyce), James Praznik’s Exo-Narrative 1: Thanks for the Memories, Timothy Beyer’s Descent, and an untitled work by Greg D’Alessio. It’s free.

Ars Organi, a festival of organ music at St. Paul’s, Cleveland Heights, ends its run with performances by Erik Wm. Suter (Washington, D.C.) on Friday, October 18 at 7:30 pm, Steven Plank (St. Paul’s and Oberlin) on Saturday, October 19 at 4:00 pm, and Karel Paukert (St. Paul’s) with narrator John Orlock on Sunday, October 20 at 4:00 pm. Repertoire ranges from French romantic to 17th-century music and on Sunday features Petr Eben’s The Labyrinth of the World and The Paradise of the Heart (after a literary work by Jan Amos Komenský-Comenius). A freewill offering will be received.

The Cleveland Museum of Art will present the Zohn Collective, featuring soprano Tony Arnold and Zach Finkelstein, tenor, with Mexico’s La Coperacha Puppet Company, in Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon’s Comala and a new work by Daniel Pesca on Friday, October 18 at 7:30 pm in Gartner Auditorium. Timothy Weiss conducts. Tickets are available online.

And next up on the Cleveland Chamber Music Society series is The Jerusalem Quartet, who will play Mozart’s Quartet in d, K. 421, Korngold’s Quartet No. 2 in E-flat, and Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 9 in E-flat at Plymouth Church on Tuesday, October 22 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online.

For details of these and other classical concerts, see our Concert Listings page.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry, No. 14

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 3:48 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI ROLF
  • Photo by Heidi Rolf

In the beginning was the Word, I read again, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Whatever your theology, that’s a sublime lede.

We call this anonymous text the Gospel of John. Tradition attributes it to the Apostle John or John of Patmos, but the author identifies himself only as a disciple “whom Jesus loved.”

No one asked me, but I think he must have been a poet.

Who else would have the nerve to rewrite the creation story in the Book of Genesis?—to tell us that God not only creates through speech—Let there be light—but that language itself is divine.

We acknowledge the creative force of language when word becomes deed. We hear magicians say presto and abracadabra just before something wonderful appears; we teach our children the “magic word” please.

But the Gospel of John makes even more of language. It tells us that the Word was God, and that the Word was made flesh.

God speaks, and we reply, if only in the confusion of our own human tongues.

O, we say, in that open vowel that at once invokes and cries out. Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu. Holy, holy, holy. Inshallah.

Made in the image of the divine, we too strive to create. Poetry is making, as the Ancient Greek word poesis reminds us. If the scale of its creation is smaller, its concerns are nothing less than the cosmos.

“All good poets sing hymns,” says the American poet Charles Wright. Indeed, prayer and poetry alike are plea and lament and praise.

God speaks, and we reply. But we know that human language is too fallible, too fungible, to address the divine. Words cannot approach the Word. “God is not the things whereby we imagine Him,” the American poet Christian Wiman writes.

So we turn to metaphor, that linguistic paradox that in the same breath says something is—and is not—what it is.

Such metaphor can be as succinct as “God is love.” Or as elaborate as the “verse of light” (Sûrah XXIV:35) of the Qur’an:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light.

The Psalms too tell us that God is light. In those sacred songs God is light, a shield, a rock, and more. The Lord is refuge, fortress, deliverer, high tower and, of course, shepherd.

We read the Psalms as lyric poems that portray the relationship between their speaker and the divine. Thousands of years later, Walt Whitman read them as models for his own poems. The parallel structure of the Psalms also provides the formal template for much of Leaves of Grass.

I cannot read section 48 of “Song of Myself”—

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least
[. . .]
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s
name

—without hearing the opening lines of Psalm 9:

I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou Most High.

What Whitman found in the Psalms—a form to inhabit and to renew—Emily Dickinson found in traditional Christian hymns. In many Dickinson poems you can hear the rhythmic and rhyming echoes of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “Amazing Grace,” and more.

Dickinson creates poetic tension between her hymnodic form and her theological doubt. Her meters may resemble church music, but their content more closely resembles Job’s lament before the whirlwind or Christ’s cry (itself an echo of Psalm 22) “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” from the agony of the cross:

Apparently with no surprise
To any happy Flower
The Frost beheads it at its play—
In accidental power—
The blonde Assassin passes on—
The Sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another Day
For an Approving God.


Even the most ecstatic praise for the divine cannot escape the question of theodicy—of how death and suffering and injustice can fit into the divine plan of a benevolent God. How we may labor to feel the presence of that God in our all-too-human lives.

“The love of God is the loneliest thing I know of,” says Charles Wright, whose Christ-haunted poetic career reads as a struggle with—and for—faith. For Wright, as we read in “Ars Poetica II,” the love of God and the love of words are inseparable:

I find, after all these years, I am a believer—
I believe what the thunder and lightning have to say;
[. . .]
I believe that dead leaves and black water fill my heart.

[. . .]

God is the fire my feet are held to.

Wright’s final line returns us to metaphor as perhaps the only way we can imagine God.

Here metaphor intersects with a branch of theology called the via negativa (“negative way”), which attempts to reconcile our urge to speak of God with the knowledge that God transcends anything we might say.

Made in the image of the divine, we try to approach the divine in human terms. As the Tunisian-American poet Leila Chatti attempts in her poem “Confession”:

Truth be told, I like Mary a little better
when I imagine her like this, crouched
and cursing, a boy-God pushing on
her cervix (I like remembering
she had a cervix, her body ordinary
and so like mine) [. . .]

“Confession” is one of several poems in which Chatti imagines Mary, mother of Jesus (and the only woman named in the Qur’an). This Mary is the teenaged girl we meet in the Gospels, someone whose plans, like those of the speaker’s, are interrupted by God or fate or chance.

Such poetry does not seek or profess answers to divine questions. It aspires to something else: the peace that passeth all understanding, the Amen that agrees, and blesses, and acknowledges that for the present, sacred moment, nothing more need be said.

Dave Lucas is the author of Weather (VQR/Georgia, 2011), which received the 2012 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry. In 2018 he was appointed the second Poet Laureate of the State of Ohio. He lives in Cleveland.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Rocky River Chamber Music Society to Feature Cimbalom Player Alexander Fedoriouk Next Monday

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 9:44 AM

CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.COM
  • ClevelandClassical.com
The Rocky River Chamber Music Society will explore “Chamber Music of Hungary” to begin its 61st season on Monday, October 14 at 7:30 pm at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church.

Four Cleveland Orchestra members — violinists Katherine Bormann and Emma Shook, violist Stanley Konopka, and cellist Martha Baldwin — will open the program with Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2.

The second half is all trios: Shook will join another Orchestra colleague, bassist Henry Peyrebrune, and cimbalom player Alexander Fedoriouk in traditional folk music from Hungary and Romania, and in works by Brahms and Vittorio Monti. A freewill offering will be taken.

The largest instrument in the hammered dulcimer family, as Fedoriouk explained in an interview, the cimbalom is struck with wooden hammers to create sound. One feature that distinguishes the instrument from other dulcimers is its damper pedals, an innovation of József Schunda in the 1870s.

“In the United States, people know the cimbalom only by a couple of pieces,” Fedoriouk said, noting Kodaly’s Háry János Suite. “It’s used very sparingly in classical music, but in a traditional folk scene it’s a centerpiece.”

The cimbalom is extremely versatility in that genre. “I play melody, accompaniment, bass lines — you name it,” Fedoriouk said. “If I accompany a violinist, then I can play chord progressions like on a piano, and when I close down the dampers, it sounds very percussive.”

The bulk of what Fedoriouk, Shook, and Peyrebrune will play on Monday is folk repertoire that might have influenced classical composers like Brahms, Kodály, and Bartók. “These great composers heard traditional musicians playing these fancy melodies and accompaniment patterns, and those formed the basis for some of their pieces.”

The trio will also play Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 and Monti’s Csárdás. “That’s a very famous piece by an Italian composer,” Fedoriouk said, “but I’m sure it also had some influence from Eastern European and gypsy music.” He added that programs like this one, where listeners can hear folk and classical music side by side, are very valuable. “It gives people an idea of the roots of the music — where it came from.”

Speaking of genres intermingling — over the course of his fascinating career, Fedoriouk has collaborated with some names from the jazz and rock worlds that might surprise you. He performed at Carnegie Hall with multi-instrumentalist John Cale of the Velvet Underground, and recorded in Nashville with guitarist Nigel Pulsford of alternative rock group Bush.

“Pulsford had a list of songs that he would bring to sing with Bush,” Fedoriouk said. “They would say, ‘We like this song, but maybe not for this album.’ Everyone has their own list of songs they have in the can that they didn’t record or publish, so he would do his own projects.”

Another collaboration was with Herbie Mann for his 2000 album Eastern European Roots after the jazz flutist became interested in his heritage. “He went to see where his ancestors came from and fell in love with the folk music when he was over there,” Fedoriouk said. “He came back and wanted to do a recording where he would feature some instruments from Eastern Europe.”

That’s how he found Fedoriouk. “It was very interesting to incorporate Eastern European traditional music with improvisation and jazz,” the cimbalom player said. “It was a great experience because you grow as a musician when you collaborate with people from different genres. You learn so much, they learn so much. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but sometimes you get an incredible result.”

Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 8, 2019.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Means Justify the Ends in Great Lakes Theater's Production of 'Julius Caesar'

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 12:42 PM

PHOTO BY ROGER MASTROIANNI
  • Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Friends, Northeast Ohioans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

Many avoid Shakespeare, thinking the script and language will be too complicated to follow. This is never the case with Great Lakes Theater.

When Shakespeare is produced correctly, as it is in GLT’s Julius Caesar, the characters, their intentions and the plot lines are not only easy to understand, they are also intriguing, lyrically beautiful and relevant.

William Shakespeare’s historic tragedy begins when Julius Caesar returns from a victorious battle and is heralded by the people as a hero. In this production, Julius Caesar is played by a woman. Her close friend, Mark Antony, offers her the crown of Rome, which she denies. However, the thought of seeing Caesar in power threatens Cassius, who convinces others that Caesar will destroy democracy if in power. One of those she convinces is Brutus, who, while a friend of Caesar, determines that doing what’s best for Rome means taking drastic, murderous actions.

Julius Caesar is a tale that warns of the fragility of democracy and the dangers of tyranny. It was originally performed in 1599 London, a time where the succession of the throne was in question. Because of its timely performance in relation to the political turmoil occurring in England, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a play based in ancient Rome, is commonly thought to have been written to subtly represent the political climate of the times.

Julius Caesar continues to be produced in ways that reflect the world around us. This has been accomplished by setting the play during modern times and dressing the characters to look like our current political players. In GLT’s production of the show in 1970, some of the characters were portrayed as hippies, while in 2004, the show was dressed to represent the conflicts in Iraq.

Director Sara Bruner has gone another route. In this production, both the time and setting are vague. Russell Metheny’s set design features four cage-like, Roman-inspired columns that are backed by a sheet metal wall. The industrial design suggests a post-apocalyptic setting that is open to interpretation.

Leah Piehl’s costuming reflects this, as it is a combination of traditional Roman clothing and modern-day garb. Senators wear draped togas and boots or shiny, black dress shoes, while soldiers are adorned in Roman breast plates in addition to more modern military jackets.

All of the creative elements are beautiful, including the vibrant, colorful lighting designed by Rick Martin and the ghostly, foreboding sound design by Matthew Webb. And while these elements don’t make direct ties to today’s political happenings, Bruner’s Julius Caesar reflects back on modern times in a subtle, indirect way that doesn’t distract from the original work—through her gender-altering casting. She has placed the talented Carole Healey in the titular role and cast the wonderful M.A. Taylor as her husband.

Healey plays the character as any man would—with a striking sense of authority and egotistical tendencies. She is a self-assured force who feels at home in her powerful position. It’s refreshing that, while Caesar is played by a woman, that isn’t the defining characteristic of the character. Instead, it’s a normalization of women in politics.

This idea is further conveyed by the casting of Laura Welsh Berg as the ambitious Cassius. Laura Welsh Berg is striking with her short, burgundy hair and mastery of manipulative dialogue. So, not only do men question the role and suitability of women in leadership, but it’s also being questioned by fellow women.

Cassius gathers a group of conspirators against Caesar, including the humorous Casca, played by the delightful Alex Syiek. Other conspirators are well-played by David Anthony Smith, Marcus Martin, Mack Shirilla and Jessie Cope Miller.

Lynn Robert Berg plays the honorable Brutus. He has a strong presence on stage, with an adept ability to express both a judicial tone and feelings of self-doubt. It’s fascinating to watch this conflicted character unfold under Lynn Robert Berg’s practiced telling. Likewise, Brutus’ relationship with his doting wife, Portia, played by the emotional Jillian Kates, is quite passionate and moving.

When it comes to Shakespeare, you can trust that GLT’s classic company will deliver the Bard’s words deftly, finely translating a hundreds-year-old script to audiences using inflections of the voice, changes in posture and, of course, emotion.

This is especially true for Nick Steen as Mark Antony. Antony’s famous speech where he speaks about Caesar’s inherent goodness and riles the people of Rome against the establishment is incredibly powerful when delivered by Steen. His character is sweet and seemingly sincere, yet effectively manipulative.

One of the main themes to this play is that the means don’t always justify the ends. In GLT’s Julius Caesar, the means of the production — the apocalyptic setting, the modern Rome-inspired garb and the gender-altering casting —  certainly justify the ends, which is a fantastically rendered political tragedy.

Where: Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square, 2067 East 14th St., Cleveland, OH 44115
When: Through Nov. 3
Tickets: $15-80, call 216.241.6000 or visit greatlakestheater.org

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