This is a note from Jo Miller, of the English Department at Grand Valley State University. Katherine asked her to record her thoughts on the production.
Overall, I thought the production was characterized by crisp, clear, uncluttered storytelling. The production obviously took much care with language, was sensitive to the humor in the play, and was very careful to prioritize the development of relationships between characters in the play.
The use of space was creative and effective, especially in the difference between the two acts, which allowed the world of the play to evolve from stasis to tragedy.
I especially appreciated the deliberate exploitation of the energy in this sometimes static play, with actors interspersed throughout the audience at strategic points and a rich variety of sounds, harsh, soft, loud, quiet, near, and far in relation to the audience. The 2nd Act was particularly successful in this regard, as if Caesar’s death freed the play from its rather formal movement style in the first Act, where most people entered, exited, and occupied places on the stage that were very practical and efficient, but somewhat predictable, without a lot of variety. After the murder, this all changed, and the world of the play was clearly a very different, less orderly, and more chaotic place. Act 2 was full of creative, effective movement on and off the stage, and the play fairly careened through the second half, rewarding the audience for its attention at every turn.
The bare-bones staging produced a kind of raw, simmering quality that kept the focus squarely on the developing relationships between characters. The intensity of the relationships was especially poignant because of the all-female cast. The all-consuming love/hate feelings between Brutus and Cassius carried throughout the play, through all the ups and downs, and both of these actors contributed to the believability of the play at the same time they reminded us, by their gender, of the constructed nature of human identity and the necessity of role-playing in general. Moments such as Brutus’s dialogue with Portia were actually intensified by the single-gendered casting, and the characters gained a kind of sympathy because of the impossibility of their lives, made more real by the biological reality beneath the very fine, very full-bodied acting of the women who played all the parts.
Another flash point was the killing of Caesar, where the staging made the audience feel strongly as if it were part of the action. One of the most powerful instances of audience interaction was the bloody hands that shook ours, implicating us in the murder, and making physical for us the otherwise abstract idea of guilt-by-association that audiences should feel.