Antony and Cleopatra the Musical
Reviewed by Dana Martin
Through December 30th
Antony and Cleopatra the Musical strikes an unintentionally comedic tone at Gray studios in North Hollywood. A joint production by Jamaica Moon Productions and the GGC Players, the production is marked by broad dramatic strokes, big musical numbers and bright colors.
The hot-and-heavy affair between Antony and Cleopatra is big news in Alexandria. Antony is so enamored by Cleopatra that even news of his third wife’s is death isn’t enough to pry him away from the gorgeous Egyptian Queen. Eventually, Antony reluctantly returns to Rome, and agrees to marry Octavia, so as to smooth the ruffled feathers of his colleagues. Upon discovery, Cleopatra flies into a jealous rage. The two have a lover’s quarrel of epic proportions as they are surrounded by impending treachery. Soon, Cleopatra fakes her own death, hoping to lure Antony to her, but instead Antony kills himself. Actually, he wounds himself mortally and spends his short remaining time with a rather sheepish Cleopatra. It’s pretty much downhill for Cleopatra after that and soon she gets a little too cozy with a snake and dies by snakebite.
Lauren Plaxco oozes sexual desire as Cleopatra, the exceedingly vain and self-centered queen of Egypt. She swings freely from pining to pouting, and her voracious sexual appetite for Antony overshadows her political sensibilities, leaving her vulnerable to treacherous Caesar (a quietly commanding Justin Truesdale). Plaxco demonstrates a command of the verse and a keen understanding of the coldly beautiful queen as she stamps out any semblance of the character’s likeable qualities. When she belts out “The Man that Got Away” following Antony’s death, audience sympathy is nil. Chad Doreck’s Antony is suave and earnest in his seemingly singular desire to bed Cleopatra, which motivates all his actions and behavior. Doreck attempts to sustain his explosive rage through much of the second act, causing vocal and physical strain. The physical chemistry between Plaxco and Doreck is electric, though it’s difficult to decipher whether the characters share a bond deeper than their screaming libidos.
The sizable supporting cast provides a firm foundation for the royal mayhem. Particular standouts include Marlin Chan as Eros, Antony’s trusted and tender-hearted companion, and Antonio Roccucci as the crooning Eunuch Mardian.
Director Gloria Gifford breaks up the dense verse in a way that makes the story accessible to a modern audience — and she does so through music. The selected tunes span a wide range of styles and genres, from Rick James’ “Super Freak” to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Unfortunately, they are played at a volume that makes it difficult to hear the actor’s vocals. Further, it’s unclear whether the overall tone is camp or tragedy, though the play’s final moments are unmistakably haunting.
Antony and Cleopatra the Musical proves difficult to categorize. Like the original script, the musical explores romance, tragedy and history in equal parts, interweaving matters of state with an ill-fated love affair. The main problem is that none of the characters are particularly likable — Antony and Cleopatra are like the Kim and Kanye of Shakespeare’s day. The production offers a unique and sometimes silly perspective on famous people behaving badly.
Gray Studios, 5250 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through December 30th; (310) 366-5505 or www.tix.com.; Running time: two hours and 10 minutes with one intermission.