Am I a bachelor? To answer every man directly and briefly, wisely and truly: wisely I say, I am a bachelor.
These are some of the last words of the unfortunate Cinna the Poet, played by Kim Curtis, in Scena Theatre‘s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street. He is then ripped limb from limb by the mob for having the same name as Cinna the Conspirator in a Rome consumed by political violence. It’s another brief but outstanding ensemble part in a play that often calls for the actors to step into a number of roles.
Julius Caesar, at Atlas through September 24, is Scena’s first Shakespeare production, and launched the company’s 31st season. Director Robert McNamara, who also stars as Caesar, takes a directorial approach that highlights the dangers of political violence but has little to no analogue to our current political climate.
Not that a direct analogue is necessarily the best direction, as New York-based Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar showed earlier this year in likening Caesar to Trump, even though Caesar’s assassination isn’t so much a moment of catharsis as it is literally the catalyst for both sides to “let loose the dogs of war.”
What truly set Scena’s production apart were the standout performances from a brilliant cast. The leads (Brutus, Cassius and Marc Antony) are played by Ian Blackwell Rogers, David Bryan Jackson and Barry McEvoy respectively. Rogers and McEvoy play off each other to the extent that McEvoy’s character embodies all of the passion which Rogers’ character – a stoic – disdains.
Rogers’ logic is ultimately his own undoing, and his unraveling is exquisite. The play also has many ensemble roles and, in these, Ron Litman and Kim Curtis shine as conspirators, slaves, a harmonica-playing soothsayer, and in a brief, tragic-comic moment, Cinna the Poet.
Don’t miss Julius Caesar at Atlas Performing Arts Center through September 24. Tickets are $40-$45. Go to scenatheare.org for more information.