Lend Your Ears to Elements’ Julius Caesar Orleans Church a Fine Setting for Roman Tragedy

Written by John Watters
Shakespeare’s tragic play Julius Caesar purportedly was the Bard’s first at his famed London Globe Theater in 1599. Likewise, the Elements Theatre Company of Orleans is also currently staging Julius Caesarin a new space, the magnificent atrium of their Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus. The imposing courtyard setting serves as a perfectly stunning backdrop for the company’s truly inspiring production.With its lavish costuming, sharply honed acting and august theatrical space, this Elements Theatre Company production of Julius Caesar instantly makes it one of the Cape’s most memorable Shakespearean performances of all time.Shakespeare penned Julius Caesar when his career was red hot. In the same year, he wrote As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merry Wives of Windsor. But arguably, JC’s iconic lines “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” and “Et tu, Brute?” remain some of the Bard’s most quoted lines 414 years later.

Under the able-handed direction of Sr. Danielle Dwyer this Julius Caesar soars with sight and sound. Dwyer is able to combine the intimacy of the columned setting, the sound of the slap of the sandals on the stone floor, the dance of burning torches, the rich acting and the beautifully composed music by Rock Harbor Academy’s Alex Pugsley, into not just a play for the audience to view but more like the transport of actually being there.

Element’s repertory cast is deep with talent, but Brad Lussier as Marcus Brutus and Chris Kanaga as Mark Antony lead the way. Lussier’s multi-layered portrayal of Brutus, a complex conspirator wanting to bring forth the demise of the self-centered dictator Julius Caesar, is near perfect. Clearly torn between the respect of his leader and the state of Rome itself, he becomes an instrumental tool in the demise of Caesar. Kanaga brings forth a robust impersonation of Mark Antony, who must create an air of damage control for the people of Rome, who are ready for blood lust in reciprocation for the assassination of their leader. Kanaga’s powerful performance ripples with strength and stoicism.

Peter Haig ably wears the laurel wreath of Julius Caesar. His portrayal builds in strength from the beginning of the play until the curtain, with some of his most effective moments coming as Caesar’s ghost.

Another stellar performance is turned in by Rachel McKendree as Cassius, who draws the audience’s focus each time she’s on stage. Other notable performances are Lindsey Kanaga as the Soothsayer, Heather Norman as Portia, Kyle Norman as Caska and Dwyer as Calphurnia.

In a play that has so many wonderful elements, a special note needs to be addressed to the costuming by Michelle Rich. The accurately designed costumes are simply spectacular.

If you are a Shakespearean scholar or have never been exposed to the Bard’s work you could do no better than catching this shimmering production.