Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Bard takes ill-fated trip to Haiti in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

Gimmicks trump coherence in a new production of “Antony and Cleopatra” that would probably have Shakespeare suing for copyright infringement.

Jonathan Cake and Joaquina Kalukango play the ill-fated lovers in this new British-American version, “edited and directed” by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The playwright, apparently eager to stress the play’s racial themes, transforms the Egyptians into pre-revolutionary Haitians and the Romans into French colonialists, albeit ones with British accents.

McCraney’s also dramatically reconfigured the text, cutting characters and re­arranging scenes and speeches with abandon. To compensate for the streamlining, he has Antony’s cohort Enobarbus (Chukwudi Iwuji) filling us in between scenes.

Even so, the play still runs nearly three hours, what with several calypso-flavored musical and dance interludes. Cake’s hunky Antony is so busy dancing, it’s a wonder he finds time for political intrigue, let alone romance.

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