The opening sequence of Frank Bebey's directorial return to the University of Alaska Anchorage Arts Buidling Main Stage Theatre is worth the show itself.
Bebey returns after a decade-long absence to give local theatre buffs a modern retelling of William Shakespeare's classic tale of back-stabbing, literally, and political slander, “Julius Caesar.”
Trimmed to a tight and tidy two acts and two hours, Bebey's view comes across more on the lines of minimalist-industrial over pompous excess.
The real star of this show, outside of stellar performances from Yosh Hayashi and Brent Bateman as nemeses Cassius and Marc Antony, is the sound engineering and effects of Frank Hardy and Rob Kreps.
The tale modernizes the story and sets the rival camps of Caesar-loyalist Antony and Octavius against the dissenters Cassius and Brutus in a post-modern world ruled by factions and their armies. But the armies are only implied and given to the audience through stunning visuals over the center stage landing provided by C. Matt Sun.
Hayashi occasionally stumbles over his delivery, but more than makes up for it with his powerful portrayal of Caesar's aide, whom the emperor dim-wittedly laments to a senator “is too thin, would he were fatter.”
Which is the problem with the show. After getting past the brutal assassination of the man and bearing witness to the in-fighting and covert actions and inactions of his peers we're veered back to the real world by Casear's ghost haunting Brutus and being laid to rest by Mark Antony.
In one of the finest monologues I've seen at UAA, Bateman endears himself to the audience with his finesse and stern staccato delivery and spot-on timing that finds no breaks between him and his recorded chorus of angry senators and ploebes.
Running at the Arts Building Main Stage through Dec. 9, “Julius Caesar” is not for the casual fan. Then again, the Shakespeare purist may find the story butchered in length and lacking in a coordinated assault the likes of which would do Antony proud.
Bebey's return is successful because he pulls off recognizable Shakespeare while still adding an interesting twist to its interpretation.