Awesome Punch

Review of Antony & Cleopatra at Seattle Shakespeare Company by Alyssa O

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Antony and Cleopatra is the young Arnold Schwarzenegger of theater: it’s dramatic, sexy, romantic, it sounds kind of funny, and it sure knows how to pack an awesome punch. In terms of all other plays I have seen prior to this, Antony and Cleopatra is truly the full package. It does for theater what Carmen does for the world of musical performance.

Real life husband and wife Hans Altwies and Amy Thone play the titular characters
Photo by John Ulman

The play is sexy from the start. The artistic opening involving carefully choreographed, sensual dancing on a minimalistic and carefully designed stage does well to transport the audience into ancient Egypt. For the first couple minutes of dialogue, that mood was dispelled by the strange sound of olde English emanating from “Egyptian” mouths. Before long, that oddity faded into oblivion as the production lured the audience further into the famous and dynamic love story of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

The play may have been written in Elizabethan English, but the jokes Shakespeare wrote hundreds of years ago are no less funny today. With wonderful skill, director John Langs beautifully highlights each and every piece of humor and innuendo Shakespeare planted within his play. The amount of adult comedy and the complete burn moments in the performance kept giggles and laughter constant throughout the play.

Photo by John Ulman

Despite artists' bad reputation for being inaccurate when discussing historical events, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is a play for history junkies. Regardless of whether or not certain events in the play occurred, the performance forces its viewers to reflect on the more human aspect of history and some of its greatest figures. From reading a history textbook, never in my life could I have imagined Cleopatra swooning over Antony like a teenaged girl, wondering when he would return home, and whether he was standing or sitting at that exact moment. The play tells a tale of history, but one of human behavior and emotions, rather than times and events. It would be an insult to call Antony and Cleopatra a simple reenactment of the lives of the two rulers; the play is instead a powerful emotional interpretation of the complex lives of Antony, Cleopatra, and the world surrounding them.

This play is a visual pleasure to watch. Designers Jennifer Zeyl (set), Geoff Korf (lights), and Pete Rush (costumes) conquer above and beyond the written script by providing artful touches at effective points in the play. Breathtaking scenes, such as the one where an image of Cleopatra gracefully and sensually floats across the stage in softly swaying garments, assist the audience in achieving a better understanding of the play. Transitions from one set to the next happen flawlessly and gracefully within a matter of seconds. The play is nothing short of beautiful and artful.

For anyone who enjoys a good laugh, an intriguing and intense storyline, a new view on history, or beautiful visuals, Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Antony and Cleopatrais the play to see. If theater is not one of your favorite forms of performance, as it was not for me as a musically-oriented person, it definitely will be after seeing Antony and Cleopatra.

Antony and Cleopatra
Through November 18

Seattle Shakespeare Company at Intiman Playhouse

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