Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 04:26 am est

Public Theater presents multi-faceted ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

Posted on March 6, 2014 | by Dylan Jarrett

courtesy of the Public Theater

Marc Antony and Cleopatra are placed among history’s greatest lovers. Their tragic story is as famous as Romeo and Juliet’s, Samson and Delilah’s or Lancelot and Guinevere’s. However, Shakespeare’s portrayal of the couple is heavy on politics as well as love, focusing largely on the conflict between Egypt and Rome.

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s production of “Antony and Cleopatra,” which opened at the Public Theater on March 5, successfully accomplishes the difficult task of balancing this famous love story with the cultural and political gap between the title characters.

McCraney’s play opens in a palpably African Egypt. Rather than giving the audience the sleek robes and kohl eyeliner stereotypically associated with a semi-Caucasian Egypt, McCraney’s Egypt feels far more natural. Joaquina Kalukango, who plays a dominating yet petite Cleopatra, has dreadlocks rather than the black wig commonly associated with the character.

In contrast, the Romans have been Anglicized. They wear military jackets rather than togas and would not appear out of place in a textbook about the American Revolution. Luckily, the play’s action occurs predominantly in Egypt, which is the far more interesting culture to observe, full of music and passion.

Chivas Michael, an actor who plays several Egyptian roles, exemplifies this passion. Although his three parts are not distinct enough to differentiate one character from another, he carries the Egyptian culture with him even when he leaves the country, accompanying Antony to Rome as the two nations fight.

By making this cultural divide so jarring, McCraney is better able to illustrate Antony’s inner struggle. Antony is unsure whether his allegiances lie with Rome or with Cleopatra, the woman he loves and the face of Egypt. As played by Jonathan Cake, Antony is both wild and shrewd, giving in to passion when he is with Cleopatra but succumbing to political cunning when in Rome. Cake is excellent — his charisma is exactly what Antony needs.

He is paired perfectly with Kalukango’s Cleopatra, who, despite being nearly a foot shorter than Cake, manages to match his incredible presence. For her, love and politics are intertwined. Her two goals — to empower Egypt and to love Antony — go together in her mind. Kalukango is appropriately fiery and commanding, as a queen should be. Together, these characters embody the archetypical power couple, equally obsessed with each other and their countries’ politics.

Although we are left with Antony and Cleopatra’s dramatic love-induced suicides, the politics of the play linger over the characters. The pair was infamous for being lovers, but the drama of their affair was forced to compete with the critical conflict between their two nations. Happily, this production will not make audiences choose. Instead, it weaves the two narratives together in a beautifully crafted presentation of this famous tale.

“Antony and Cleopatra” is playing at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., through March 23.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, March 6 print edition. Dylan Jarrett is books/theater editor. Email her at djarrett@nyunews.com.

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next