By Bernie Krumm Staff Writer
From now until March 24, some of the finest actors at Hofstra giving excellent performances in the 64th annual Shakespeare Festivals production of “Antony and Cleopatra.” When I attended a performance on Friday, I found that these particular performances helped the production overcome several flaws. The play picks up where “Julius Caesar” leaves off and Rome is ruled by a triumvirate consisting of Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus. Antony (Max Baudisch) finds himself neglecting his civic duties in order to be with Cleopatra (Cassandra DeMarco), the beautiful and seductive Queen of Egypt. In choosing love over his country, Antony becomes embroiled in a conflict with Octavius Caesar (Flynn Harne) and the rest of the Roman Empire. Major themes in the play include the struggle for power, the dominance of women over men and cultural differences between the east and west. The scenic design for this particular production is minimal, and allows for easy shifts in location between Rome and Egypt. Those who are interested in design will love the effective lighting as well as the costumes, which are true to period. This production, directed by James J. Kolb, glides on the strength of its central performances. Baudisch is phenomenal as the emasculated and guilt-ridden Antony. He captures Antony’s desperation and love for Cleopatra, and shows a mastery of the language only found in truly polished Shakespearean actors. In her department debut, DeMarco shows terrific range in one of the most complex roles Shakespeare ever wrote. She is able to realize her character’s seductive and dominating personality and portray her downfall with captivating raw emotion. Harne is perfection as the stoic Octavius Caesar, giving the character a certain coldness befitting a ruthless leader. He is able to express the character’s vulnerability as well, but only when called for. The performances of these fine young actors are so poignant that the play stagnates in their absence. With a few exceptions, the supporting performances are rather flat and uninteresting. This is most likely the result of the actors’ inexperience performing Shakespeare. Like several other Shakespeare plays, “Antony and Cleopatra” is bogged down by subplots that do not necessarily pertain to the main conflict. In this production, the subplots are neither cut back nor made to be very interesting, taking away from the central focus. One notable exception is Paolo Perez’s emotionally charged performance as Enobarbus, Antony’s turncoat second in command. Jordan Schnoor provides comic relief as Lepidus, the weakest of the triumvirate and Chip Connell is hilarious as a Roman messenger who finds himself physically dominated by Cleopatra. Shakespeare lovers and theatergoers are sure to appreciate the terrific performances of the lead actors. However, this three hour plus production may not be able to hold the interest of those who are new to Shakespeare.