Coriolanus from Man to Dragon adapted by Omri Kadim and presented by Shakespeare in the Square and Combative Theatre Co. is an interesting look at Shakespeare’s Ancient Rome.
The play was presented in somewhat of a thrust fashion and the audience was made to stand and be a part of the production for roughly 65% of the play. Cast members utilized the stage and space in front of it, with a ramp leading down. Members of the Fight Core frequently spoke to audience members as if they were Roman citizens, ushering them to different parts of the floor. It was an immersive dynamic experience that director Yuriy Pavlish attempted to utilize to bring a different element to Coriolanus. Also I must note that the cast was a healthy mix of genders, another new take on the play.
We begin with dozens of fight scenes, the cast in tattered togas with strips of leather to accentuate a character’s status. It seems costume designer Fan Zhang worked with a budget as best as possible. At times it was a struggle to tell which group fighting were Roman soldiers and which were the Volscians. This issue was not assuaged by the passage of time and the lessening of violence—this made the play somewhat muddled.
Members of the cast entered the scene from three different points, one at each portion of the thrust. Sounds of battle were heard behind the curtain shielding audience members from the seats they would gain access to when the performance allowed. Every avenue was used to express different portions of the play.
The combat scenes were filled with death and the scathing sound of metal on metal or metal to spear. The cast was able to utilize a host of weapons—swords, spears, hidden daggers and dirks. The theatrics were well placed, the stances and fighting style commensurate with warriors of Ancient Rome. However, most cast members found it difficult to fight at speed and many moves came across as contrived. The exception were battles between Coriolanus (Jefferson Reardon) and Aufidius (Chris Dooly)—both men were very well suited to battle at speed and it was a pleasure to watch.
Each cast member had a solid hold of the Shakespearean prose, not faltering with its heft. The play also had a healthy dose of comedic relief mostly doled out by Menenius (Felix Birdie). Other notable performances include Volumnia (Patricia Black) and Brutus (Oliver Palmer). Black was engaging and each time she entered the stage she was welcome. Palmer held many roles aside from Brutus and in each he excelled at bringing the audience in. Reardon (Coriolanus) channeled his rage and anger very well, his performance palpable.
In all, the performance was difficult to follow at times because of the similarity of costume but was a unique take on Coriolanus.
Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Emilio Madrid-Kuser