Photo by Ken Jacques.
Photo by Ken Jacques

You probably wouldn’t expect the characters in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to be carrying teacups or using doorbells, but those are exactly the kind of tweaks that can be found in San Diego State’s Arts Alive rendition.

Most notable, however, is the all-female cast.

Manly mannerisms conveyed by females may be comedic at first, but as the play becomes more intense, the cast certainly proves women are capable of being more than princesses or damsels in distress.

The entire cast does a spectacular job emulating masculine idiosyncrasies, from the stomping boots and arrogant attitudes, to the displays of bloody brutality. It is evident, however, they are not trying to convince the audience that they are men, so much as challenging our stereotypes of gender. The modern-day fluidity of sexuality directly parallels the Roman Empire, and in this way, the all-female take on the play is particularly brilliant.

One bit of criticism is a few too many of the most powerful parts of the play were given with the back facing the audience. While the staging of the audience had that amphitheater effect reminiscent of Roman venues, and which would normally allow this type of theatrical style, the audience, for the most part, still sat in the typical theater arrangement. Because of this, it may be better if the person speaking is higher up on the dais, looking down at the subjects instead of up.

Overall, the cast’s performance was excellent, the lighting and effects were impressive, and the costumes were a unique mixture of military Sherlock Holmes-meets-Roman Empire, and definitely added to the curious, yet serious tone of the play.

Photo by Ken Jacques.
Photo by Ken Jacques

Cassius (Jordan Grier) was mesmerizing as s/he compelled Brutus (Lierin Abdo) to conspire against the city’s beloved Julius Caesar (Cienna Johnson). Brutus, Caesar and Mark Antony (Alli Thiss) gave strong and moving performances, and overall the emotional spectrum of the cast was impressively broad and realistic.

The play starts off humorous, and ends with chair gripping intensity; when you actually realize the play is finished, it is fair to say you wish it weren’t. Bravo to the guest artistic director, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Executive Artistic Director of MOXIE Theater, and the staff and cast: all your seats deserve to be filled.

Julius Caesar is running Nov. 4 through Nov. 15 at SDSU’s Experimental Theater. For times and ticketing information visit Arts Alive SDSU.