Shakespeare play makes for impressive performance

Gannon University hosted the Cambridge American Stage Tour (CAST) Thursday.  Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” was on the main stage for a one-night-only performance that entertained students, faculty and community members.

This year’s production found its way onto the stage with an unambiguous and tremendously powerful interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most energetic tragedies.

The full-time company of 18 actors was made up of several people with professional acting as a precursor to this event including an alumna of the “Harry Potter” franchise, Genevieve Gaunt (Cleopatra).

The much-anticipated annual British theater tour group wasn’t originally scheduled to perform at the Schuster Theatre due to a scheduling conflict that was eventually resolved at the last minute.

Cambridge University’s most talented directors, producers, actors and technicians arrived late Wednesday night to present the one-night performance of “Antony and Cleopatra.”  This was CAST’s 13th year touring the United States.

In recent years, they have performed “Macbeth,” “The Tempest,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” which received rave reviews from full-house audiences along their tour of prestigious colleges, high schools and community theatres in the U.S. as well as at home in the United Kingdom.

“Antony and Cleopatra” contrasts a rising star against a state hero in decline, while feeding a passion that will crumble the best empires.

In a turbulent Rome, Mark Antony, one-third of the ruling Triumvirat, abandoned his duties in favor of the enticing Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. While pirates bombard the shores, a bubbling of discontent was in the heart of Octavius Caesar.

Battling an intertwined curtain of wars, forced smiles and too-firm handshakes, Antony is magnetically pulled home.  Cleopatra is such an attraction that the Roman militia cannot sever him from her, as she is the pinwheel in which Antony anchors his world.

Cleopatra, charming and malicious, is the embodiment of a seductive East versus the conquest-obsessed West. Together the two of them form the most impressive of Shakespeare’s lovers, both his least epic heroes and most powerful players in a constant interchange of will, lust and control.

The undercurrent of political upheaval stalks the men and women of Rome and Egypt, each nation caught up in a world in which barbaric methodology rules.

The language of this particular drama was open to an exploration of movement; this production matched the beauty of palatable text with a simplistic approach to the performance and an explosive energy that was physically dynamic.

Devastatingly emotional, heartbreaking, nostalgic and startlingly comical, the cast of “Antony and Cleopatra” found no difficulty in communicating the historic message.

The costumes were simple and appropriate while the choreography was quite elegantly executed.

Work on the set began early Thursday morning. Cast and crew members from the tour as well as the Gannon community established an anchor for the 8 p.m. performance.

The tour recently completed a run in Kentucky after cast members had to be awake at 5 a.m. for an 8 a.m. departure from Erie.

The Schuster Theatre’s next main stage performance will be on Sept. 27 when “Lives of the Saints,” a play by David Ives, opens at 8 p.m.

The show will be directed by Rev. Shawn Clerkin and is made up of seven one-act plays. It will show through Oct. 7. Call the box office at 814-871-7494 for tickets.

 

ROB LOPEZ

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