Friday, June 14, 2019

Cleopatra's Monument

Last night, I saw Hudson Warehouse's production of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra outside at the Solders' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park.

In the past, productions by Hudson Warehouse have been a mixed bag, but this one is definitely worth seeing. Benjamin Farmer is a strong Antony, trapped in his dual allegiances to Rome and Egypt, and Emily Sarah Cohn provides a mercurial Cleopatra, always surprising us with the "infinite variety" of her character.

Director George K. Wells rearranges the script a bit, so we begin with a voiceover of Antony's famous funeral oration from Julius Caesar, and the memorable description of Cleopatra's barge is moved from Act II to almost the end of the play. There's some gender switching as well. Octavius Caesar is played by Linda Elizabeth as a cool and calculating political woman, while Cleopatra's maid Charmian is played by James Foster Jr. as the queen's go-to man for tasks that require trust and competence.

The site-specific performance makes reference to the Monument behind the audience when the play's plot turns to Cleopatra taking refuge in her own monument. Unfortunately, the actors can't use the actual Monument, which has been fenced off and under restoration for quite some time. Instead, the audience sits on steps on the north side of the Monument (using seating pads supplied by the company) and watches the action with the treetops of Riverside Park as a backdrop.

Outdoors theatre in the parks is always contingent on the weather, but it can pay to be optimistic. Yesterday, the threat of rain kept many people away, but the clouds never opened and instead provided a nice cover from the glare of the sun. It even got chilly for a June day, and I had to break out the scarf I brought.

Performances begin at 6:30 pm, so there's enough day to light the entire performance, though the park lamps did flicker on toward the end of the performance. The show's only running until the end of the month, so see it now!