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Review: ‘Julius Caesar’ blends past and present for powerful effect

With fierce war cries, Nashville Shakespeare Company opened “Julius Caesar” in the Troutt Theater Thursday night, leaving audiences to ruminate on the hypnotic power of words.

Shakespeare’s historical play focuses on the power struggle of the extremely popular Julius Caesar and those who conspired against him and his potential tyranny. Among these conspirators is the noble Brutus, a trusted ally and friend of Julius Caesar, who chooses the livelihood of the Roman republic over the life of the beloved Caesar.

The subsequent death of the ambitious ruler sends Rome into political turmoil, splitting it into factions – the conspirators and those, like Mark Antony, who mourn the death of their leader.

Director Santiago Sosa reimagines this famed story in a dramatically different way, setting the story in a fantastical mix of the past and present.

An eccentric combination of contemporary suits paired with toga-like skirts solidifies this anachronistic setting and invites us to draw parallels between the politicians of today and the ancient Roman senators.

The cunning Mark Antony, played by the excellent Sam Ashdown, masterfully persuades the masses to exalt him over beloved Brutus. As the intense emotions of the people change so rapidly, his words, “Men have lost their reason,” resonate and extend over to our own time.

The brilliant projection designs by Belmont alumni Sam Lowry bring attention to the characters’ propagandic strategies. As the screens display articles from “The Roman Tribune” and campaign-like photos of Caesar, we’re invited to consider which story to believe – the one told on the screen or on the stage.

Rome’s war could not have been waged so captivatingly without its underscoring melodies. The high intensity of well-choreographed combat scenes is owed to the dramatic compositions of Belmont graduate Natalie Bell.

Despite the many gory battles it portrays, this creative and refreshing adaptation of Shakespeare’s work certainly favors the power of the pen over the sword.

This production of “Julius Caesar” admonishes us to beware not the Ides of March, but the power of words.

Friends, Romans and countrymen can lend their ears to this remarkable cast on Saturday and Sunday, as well as Jan. 17-20 and 24-27.

Tickets are discounted for students and are availableonline and at the box office.

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This article written by Kendall Crawford. Poster from the Nashville Shakespeare Festival website. 

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