I’ve spent huge chunks of my life in darkened theaters, and I’d like to think of myself as a tech-savvy turg. But this weekend’s set and lighting changeover from Copenhagen to Julius Caesar absolutely blows my mind. Switching the Loeb between these two gorgeous shows seems like the process of two months, not two days. Yet somehow, the crew calls are totally free of hysterics. It’s just another day at the office for this amazing staff.
One word comes to mind for Riccardo Hernandez’s Caesar set: HUGE. The seemingly monochromatic world Riccardo has created is deceptively complex, filled with optical illusions. I’ve now been staring for four hours of tech, taking in layers of meaning. Figuring all the elements out should keep me busy for the rest of tech week.
For two days now, the din of activity has been constant in the Loeb. About twenty minutes ago, I heard the text of the play in the silent house for the first time. Shakespeare opens the play with a shout, and Neil Patrick Stewart has the honor of hollering it in this production: “Hence, home, idle creatures, get you home!” As the ensuing intimate scene continues, the scale of this set continues to amaze me. Standing upstage, actors seem swallowed by this epic space. It seems as if a football field separates them from the downstage apron, which Arthur is using for some of the play’s soliloquies.
A few minutes later, Kunal Prasad as the soothsayer booms out the play’s most famous line: “Beware the Ides of March.” The warning has enormous power in this vast playing space. The other actors pause, and the soothsayer’s warning reverberates for several seconds. I wonder if it can be heard in the Loeb’s offices, rehearsal rooms, and lobby. Time seems to stand still as Caesar decides how to perceive the ominous warning.
Finally hearing the text in the resonant space of the Loeb has reminded me why this show hasn’t gone out of style for four centuries. It’s not for the famous rhetoric of Antony. It’s not because of the clear parallels between the Roman Empire and contemporary American politics. It’s not because of the famous Brando film. It’s because the language is incredibly beautiful and never-ending in its variety. And that’s just what I culled from the first three scenes. I can’t wait to see what the rest of tech week will remind and teach me about this play.