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Had I a dozen sons, ­ each in my love alike, and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, ­ I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country, than one voluptuously surfeit out of action. — Volumnia
Pictured top center: John Ahlin and ensemble. (Photo credit: Jerry Dalia).
The apparently ignorant but boisterous mob that plays such a significant role in Shakespeare's Coriolanus gathers with much ado just when you think you've heard enough. At these intervals, one is apt to ask what all the shouting is about. I've never been quite sure. But for this excitingly staged production by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, director Brian B. Crowe makes sure that mob rule is the visual and intellectual cornerstone of the Bard's most grim-and-bear-it tragedy. It also has a striking set by designer Dick Block that empowers the tumultuous doings with movable, riveted metallic walls that at times reveals an imposing overhead sculpture of an eagle.

It takes a while to become awestruck with the play's inherently emotional potency. But it gradually becomes a real treat for those already familiar with it and a special thrill for those who are not, particularly for its timely political relevance. Given the aisles to run up and down, the large cast seems altogether engaged in the over-the-top passions and the gutsy eccentricities of the play's characters. As one of Shakespeare's more rhetorical plays, Coriolanus also contains some really hair-raising clashes between the Romans and the Volscians as well as a fair share of rabble-rousing by the teaming, screaming masses.

Drector Crowe skillfully keeps us focused on the play's artfully crafted political designs and the often sublimated psychological conflicts. In this regard, a pair of crafty politicians and Coriolanus, who holds nothing but contempt for the populace, have enough dramatic authority to keep us glued to a plot that is calculated to implode.

Arguments have been made that Shakespeare the dramatist is less well served here than Shakespeare the activist. Certainly election years always turn up a Coriolanus or two who can be perceived from either the left or the right.

Coriolanus, as splendidly portrayed by a muscular Greg Derelian, falls in historical perspective somewhere between an ethical Attila the Hun and a barbaric Norman Bates. But you have to admire the way Derelian links the warrior's ferocious ideology with the pathology of an insecure mama's boy.

Considering the effectively cunning, self-serving impulses that Jacqueline Antaramian uses to portray Volumnia, Coriolanus' mother (a back-stage mother is there ever was one), her agenda comes through strong and clear. There were also well considered supporting performances. Bruce Cromer delivers the humanity and the hubris of the patrician Menenuis. John Ahlin and Corey Tazmania were a fine pair of skillfully crafty tribunes. Michael Schantz was an imposing presence as Coriolanus's evil adversary cum subtly provocative admirer. As becomes Coriolanus, the costumes by Tristan Raines say a lot about the converging of fascists and fashionistas on the road to Rome.

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Coriolanus by William Shakespeare Directed by Brian B. Crowe

Cast of Principals: Greg Derelian (Coriolanus), Jacqueline Antaramian (Volumnia), John Ahlin (Junius Brutus), Bruce Cromer (Menenuis), Corey Tazmania (Sicinius Velutus), Michael Schantz (Aufidius)
Scenic Designer: Dick Block
Costume Designer: Tristan Raines
Lighting Designer: Andrew Hungerford
Sound Designer: Karin Graybash
Production Stage Manager: Denise Cardarelli
Fight Director: Doug West Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including intermission
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, N.J. (On the campus of Drew University)
(973) 408 - 5600
Tickets: $25.00 to $75.00
Performances: Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.
From 06/06/16 Opened )6/09/16 Ends 07/24/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/10/16

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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