By Sandi Durell
Even at tender ages, way back in 1899, it appears that women and young girls, had an angle to climb the ladder of success, at least according to Bernard Shaw in his dramedy Caesar and Cleopatra, getting a revival by the Gingold Theatrical Group by a forward thinking David Staller who directs.
While a seemingly mindless teenaged Cleopatra (a feisty Teresa Avia Lim) is hiding out in Brian Prather’s sphinx-like archaeological site (designed with white flowing curtains), hoping not to be found by Caesar’s army, she runs smack dab into the “old gentleman” Caesar (a very austere, good looking Robert Cuccioli). He’ll have none of her silliness when he reminds her she is to be the Queen and ruler of Egypt and must act the part.
The young teen is being both cared for and manipulated by her nurse Ftataeeta (a regal and beautiful Brenda Braxton), who assumes the role of narrator and a take charge feminist guiding the cast of characters forward, while Cleopatra’s young brother Ptolemy – an adorable styled Avenue Q type puppet – is really being manipulated by the enunch Pothinus (Rajesh Bose) with his own plan to rule. However, it quickly dawns upon Cleopatra that her only way to the throne is through Caesar who teaches her the ways of royal behavior . . . how to properly walk, talk and take charge.
As things progress, Cleopatra experiences an awakening as she falls for Caesar, realizing her only way to the top is through this older man (sounds like a somewhat familiar syndrome and theme for Pgymalion). Shaw’s strong feelings about war and violence remain as subtext for a Cleopatra who yearns for blood.
David Staller takes many artistic liberties in this over 2 ½ hour production using the name “Ftatateeta” numerous times with the hope of getting some added laughs playing up this campy styled interpretation.
Caesar’s commander in chief Rufio (Jeff Applegate) and his British Secretary (Jonathan Hadley) together with the swashbuckling Apollodorus the Sicilian (Dan Domingues) round out the cast . . . all more contemporarily dressed by Tracy Christensen.
The highlight is the all around fine performances delivered by the cast.
But, unless you’re a dyed in the wool fan of Shaw and must see this little revived production, give it a second thought. You might find yourself squirming in your seat.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Caesar and Cleopatra at Lion Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West 42 Street, through October 12 (one intermission) www.gingoldgroup.org