By Augustine Warner
8/1/09

I like Tim Newell as an actor but I’m not sure Cassius is supposed to dominate “Julius Caesar” as Newell dominates Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s production. Director Steve Vaughan trimmed the relatively short play, eliminating some of Brutus’ (Doug Zschiegner) scenes. That leaves a feisty, angry, devious Cassius dominating center stage, a man Caesar (Dan Walker) never trusted. “Julius Caesar” is one of Shakespeare’s most simple plays, at least generally. A group of upper crust types decide they don’t like the power grab by Caesar and kill him. Then, they lose a bloody civil war and Cassius and Brutus commit suicide rather than be strangled in a cave under Rome, leaving the field to Mark Antony (Adriano Gatto) and Octavius (Kurt Erbb).

It’s actually about a lot more than that, of the clash between the old republican Rome of Brutus and the new imperial Rome of future Emperor Augustus. It’s also about a man, Brutus, known because a distant ancestor killed the last king of Rome who doesn’t realize how much times have changed. Cassius and his allies in the plot play up to Brutus’ ego and use him, making him the front man in the assassination and in the speech to the crowd for Caesar’s funeral.

This isn’t one of those play where someone not familiar with Shakespeare can get lost in what’s going on, trying to figure the duke of this and the earl of that and Sir Whomever. Basically, this is a power struggle like those in Washington or, especially Albany, on a steady basis. And, if you think we don’t use murder as a tool, you haven’t been listening to enough paranoid talk show hosts for enough years.

Vaughan is a pretty straight-on director, working with a pretty straight-on script and some fine work with his specialty of stage fighting. He keeps the show’s pace swift and never slows. The pivotal battle of Philippi is really well done, as is the actual assassination scene. Vaughan also has a really strong performance from Gatto as Antony, with a beautifully staged funeral scene, you know, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” There is also some really fine costume work from Ken Shaw, with his Roman military uniforms on a relatively bare set.

There is some weak casting, Cassie Gorniewicz’s Calpurnia and Erbb’s Octavius as examples.

“Julius Caesar” is worth the trip to Delaware Park and don’t be scared by the thunder in this summer of endless thunder, lighting and rain…it’s part of the show (fortunately). Take your dinner and perhaps a nice wine and “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”