In the opening moments of Theater for a New Audience’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Metellus Cimber (Ted Deasy), one of the conspirators against Caesar, confronts a “mechanical,” or ordinary citizen, who is out on the street loudly celebrating the festival of Lupercal. Metellus ends up putting a chokehold on the man and then tossing him to the ground. The violent energy doesn’t let up for the next two hours and 40 minutes of a production that, at moments, is clear and invigorating, but at others sacrifices subtlety for movement and spectacle.
It’s a truism that William Shakespeare’s tragicomedy The Winter’s Tale divides into two distinct parts. In the first, Leontes, king of Sicilia, suspects his queen, Hermione, of adultery with his friend Polixenes, king of Bohemia, who has been spending a long sojourn with them but who is leaving for his home country immediately. The biggest hurdle for actors playing Leontes is to make his sudden jealousy credible. “The part is one of the hardest ever written,” Margaret Webster noted in Shakespeare Without Tears: “with almost no preparation, the emotion of it is at flood height.”
Director Sam Gold, still draped in laurels from the Broadway premiere of A Doll’s House, Part 2, is exorcising demons of cliché and supposition from Shakespeare’s most frequently staged tragedy. Gold’s Juilliard contemporary Oscar Isaac stars in this reimagined Hamlet, a revenge tragedy that is arguably the greatest drama in the language.