“Et tu, Brute!” You may recall that line from your high school Latin class. Until I attended the Throughline Theater’s opening night of Julius Cesar last week, I was convinced that I hadn’t retained any lessons from my years of high school. Well, good job on me. I not only pulled that line out 20 years since my last Latin lesson, I realized that I could even say Marc Antony’s speech along with him, “Friends, Romans, countrymen…”. In a note in the program, Liam Macik, Throughline’s Artistic Director, explained why he chose to stage the play as part of the their season’s theme, “Can you trust the government?” Macik wrote, “ [Julius Cesar] calls into scrutiny the motives both of the ruler and the conspirators.” In light of the recent leaked DNC emails, I believe we all can get something out of Throughline’s production.
I did not learn that the production was employing gender-swapped roles until I read the program. I could be wrong, but I assume the motivation behind the gender swapping was an effort to allow women to access more theater roles. I commend Throughline for the attempt, but I think it would be more meaningful to actually tell the stories of women rather than have them perform traditional male roles.
Now, on to the actual production—Jessie Wray Goodman, the actress who played Marcus Brutus, is a treasure of Pittsburgh. I first had the pleasure of attending one of her performances during last spring’s Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. She has great presence, and I found myself watching her even when she was not delivering her lines. Another performer of note was Lydia Gibson in the role of Mark Antony. I believe she should be commended specifically for her scene weeping over the body of Caesar. Her acting was emotional without being over wrought. Lastly, Susana Garcis-Barragan brought a special, impish energy to her depiction of Lucius.
The scenery of the show was bare bones. For the most part this worked in regards to the depiction of the town square and Brutus’ dwellings. These were mostly made of wood and cement blocks from what I could tell. I do think the Throughline’s choice to include a folding tent in their scenery was not the best idea. It did not aesthetically go with the rest of the set design, and it made the opening scene of Flavius and Marrullus look as if they were hosting a yard sale.
In my time reviewing plays for Pittsburgh in the Round, I don’t believe I have ever been so moved by the enthusiasm of a cast. What really struck me, other than the political relevance of this play, was the way in which the actors invested everything they had into their performance from the minor to the pivotal roles. These are people that really take their work seriously. What I witnessed last Friday night was real passion for Shakespeare and all that he still has to tell us. Great job, Throughline Theatre Company.
Special thanks to Throughline Theatre Company for complimentary press tickets. Julius Caesar runs through July 30th. For tickets and more information, click here.