Julius Caesar | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Julius Caesar

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Julius Caesar, Strawdog Theatre Company. Fashion is destiny. In Strawdog's production of Shakespeare's tragedy, the leading plotters against Caesar dress like government lawyers, their coconspirators like Nixonian shoe salesmen. Nothing about the way they look suggests the passion, conviction, arrogance, ambition, recklessness, or calculation required to assassinate a guy who was basically king of the world. And nothing in Nic Dimond's more-than-usefully clever staging helped me understand what forces drove them to such a cataclysmic act despite their bland appearance. It was like asking me to believe that Barney Fife could have offed Andy Taylor.

Where costume designer Karen Kawa's choices begin to make sense is after the assassination, when Brutus, Cassius, and the other conspirators disclose (or, more accurately, follow up on) their essential foppishness, falling into one miscalculation after another, turning what was supposed to have been a noble defense of the republic into a morbidly comic disaster: Mayberry with swords. The costuming is also effective when it comes to John Ferrick, who makes a great sawed-off Marc Antony: dressed as if he's just come off the beach at Malibu, Ferrick's Antony is equal parts free spirit and kick-ass intriguer, a born politician with a zest for life and a taste for blood. The implication of his costume--that Antony would have made a fine movie producer--is smart and funny, justifying anachronistic license by enriching our understanding of the character.

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