FRINGENYC: Julius Caesar: The Death of a Dictator

                                  JULIUS CAESAR
Hi there. I'm both a well-known dictator and a
pretty boring play.


ORSON WELLES
What if I were to cut you down.


JULIUS CAESAR
WITH KNIVES?!? I HAVE A THING ABOUT KNIVES!


ORSON WELLES
No, in length. Down to 75 minutes.


JULIUS CAESAR
I would still be boring, but for much less time!


FRINGENYC
Damn.


My experience with Julius Caesar until now has been thus: In 7th grade, it was the first Shakespearean play I was taught because it was supposedly the easiest to understand.  Then again in 9th grade, it was taught under the assumption that we *must* have all learned Romeo and Juliet in middle school, and so Julius Caesar would be an easy to understand follow-up.  In both instances I came to the conclusion that Julius Caesar, while "easy to understand", was a rather uneventful play.  Years later when I began to love Shakespeare I decided that there had to be something on the stage that didn't translate for me on the page, and if I ever had the chance to see a lauded production of the play I would make every effort to attend.  I'm sorry to say that The Gangbuster's Theatre Company's "Julius Caesar: The Death of a Dictator" is not the production that is going to change my mind about the play.

What Director Lon Shanglebee has cleverly chosen to do is use Orson Welles' 100 minute adaptation, which eliminates several characters and drastically cuts down most of the events after Caesar dies, i.e. the entirety of Acts 4 and 5 are essentially boiled down to ~1 scene.  While this allows for a Julius Caesar that fits more clearly with Gangbuster Theatre Company's motto of "Speed and Violence", it seems to be unaware of the fact that Welles' famous production was effective because it dressed the protagonists in Nazi and Facist Italy uniforms, drawing parallels between Caesar and Mussolini (which makes sense as the year of the production was 1937, and by the way, thanks Wikipedia). 

Without any sort of deeper Welles-eque undercurrent in Gangbuster's production, all we see is a cast dressed in black, conspiring to kill someone we know very little about.  Then watch him be killed.  And watch the killers kill themselves.  And all the time we don't feel sympathetic to the killed nor the killers because we don't really know who they are or what they really stand for.  The director hasn't even seemed to really take a stand on whose side we should be on, which contributes to the blandness.  Very little runs deep, and the fault is not of the fine actors.  This is one of many Shakespearean productions that feels a need to push into an "updated" (Punk here) setting by dressing their actors in something "updated", but meanwhile does not make any sort of effort in updating who the characters are, layering new notions onto the story, or finding new meanings in Shakespeare's timeless text.  Even the inclusion of Metallica songs seemed less to bring some new light to the play and more to bring recognizable words to the Fringe booklet listing.

Julius Caesar: The Death of a Dictator
The Gangbusters Theatre Company
http://www.fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=J
www.gangbusterstheatre.com 
VENUE #17: HERE Arts Center- Mainstage Theater
Sat 14 @ 7*  Sun 15 @ 1:45  Tue 17 @ 10  Fri 20 @ 4:15  Sun 22 @ 5:15 

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