“JULIUS CAESAR”


By Bonnie Goldberg

Take a blanket or a lawn chair, a picnic dinner, the children and even the well behaved family dog and join the Elm Shakespeare Company at Edgerton Park, 75 Cliff Street, New Haven for a visit with the Bard. Elm Shakespeare is so kid friendly, they even provide a packet of games to keep the little ones amused before curtain. Maybe dog biscuits will be next.

Enjoying its 18th season of presenting fine works under the stars, the company's summer's dates are Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m. until Sunday, September 1, so don't wait a minute. The current offering is one of William Shakespeare's most intriguing, "Julius Caesar," and it will involve your attention for almost two hours, with no intermission.

The dramatic tragedy of Julius Caesar, penned by William Shakespeare in 1599, swirls around his assassination on the infamous Ides of March, March the 15th, 44 B.C. As incredibly terrible as that event, engineered as it was by a group of senators headed by Cassius (Damian Buzzerio), a deeper tragedy is the disillusionment and betrayal experienced by Brutus (James Andreassi), Caesar's dear and trusted friend.

Caesar (Tracy Griswold) has just returned to Rome after a great military victory. He has been offered a king's crown three times and he refused each time. But his enemies read into his actions a sinister plot by Caesar to make himself a god and a dictator. Cassius uses these fears, which he exploits for his own nefarious ends, to convince Brutus to join his conspirators. After the dastardly deed has been completed, Brutus realizes his grave mistakes. He loves Caesar, but he loves Rome more, and Cassius has deceived him.

Joining in the plot are Casca,( Paula Plum),who drives the dagger into Caesar first, followed by Cassius, Decius (Robert Boardman), Cinna (Kenneth Murray), Metellus (Colin Lane), and Brutus. A confident Caesar ignores the warnings of a soothsayer (Robin Maitland), and by his wife Calpurnia (Andrea Goldman), and goes to the Senate to meet his fate. Caesar's immortal dying words to his once close friend, "Et tu, Brute?" (Latin phrase, Even you, Brutus?), attributed to Shakespeare, convey his ultimate dismay. But disillusionment and betrayal are much in evidence in the role of Brutus, an honorable man manipulated to take part in a dishonorable deed. Brutus' wife Portia (Keely Baisden) kills herself because of her husband's actions. It is the task of Caesar's loyal comrade Marc Antony (Paul Pryce) to cleverly create the means of getting revenge against the traitors.

Shakespearian purists, beware the lack of togas. This version is set in modern day dress of suits and military combat attire. To James Andressi, the driving force of Elm Shakespeare, the play is relevant and timely in today's uncertain world where wars and mass killings are all too common.

A Gala and Auction -- Una Notte A Roma -- A Roman Banquet under the stars! -- an evening with a decidedly Italian flavor and theme is planned for tonight at Edgerton Park beginning at 5 p.m. with cocktails and a buffet, auction at 6:45 p.m. and curtain for the performance of "Julius Caesar" at 8 p.m. Auction items, online now and live that night, range from theater tickets, dinners at area top restaurants, a trip to Spain or the Canary Islands, a luxury rug from Kebabian's, an evening sail for 6 on a 51' sloop, handmade jewelry and much, much more.

Food from pizza to pasta, tapas to cheese, scallops to lamb chops and, of course, a lavish dessert table will be available. Gourmet treats will be provided by Park Central Tavern, Temple Grill, L'Orcio, Ibiza Tapas, Le Petit Gourmet, Sage American Grill and Oyster Bar, Caseus Fromagerie and Bistro, P & M Orange Street Market, Lucibello's, Bread and Chocolate, Carol Merriman, the New Haven Lawn Club, Whitneyville Market, Puglia Wine Importers and Odd Bins. Tickets are $175 for patrons, $125 for friends, and $75 if you bring a friend who has never come before.

The show is free but donation baskets encourage you to drop in a five or ten or twenty, to show your appreciation of the fine performance. Co-directed by James Andreassi and veteran actor Alvin Epstein, with almost entirely an Actor's Equity cast, Elm Scholars, New Haven high school students, are there to learn from the experts, everything from set design, to lights and sound, costumes and acting.

Don't let the summer pass without a visit to Edgerton Park for a hearty dose of Shakespeare sure to please and pleasure.

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