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Monday, April 3, 2017

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory Antony and Cleopatra


I just saw a production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory — and I highly recommend it!

What made this production so special is that it was performed in OP (Original Pronunciation) — all of the actors spoke with the original accent that Shakespeare and his fellow actors would have spoken.

Here is a link to buy your tickets:





This is the first time in 400 years that this play has been performed in the accent that Shakespeare spoke!

That should be enough for you to drop everything, and go see this production right away.

If you love Shakespeare, you must see this production.

Even if you have seen Antony and Cleopatra 100 times before, you have never seen a production like this.

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is becoming the world’s pre-eminent company as far as OP is concerned. They started with Merchant of Venice in OP two years ago, and they did The Winter’s Tale in OP last year. And they are just getting started, and plan to do at least one play in OP each year.

What is so special about OP? I would say that it brings the words to life like nothing I have ever seen/heard before, with Shakespeare. And even the least poetic of his lines have a charm and warmth to them that otherwise is lost when spoken with another accent.

I will admit that Shakespeare in OP is sometimes a little more of a challenge for me to hear, and understand what is being said. But that is also what is so fascinating, when you watch/hear an OP Shakespeare play, you really begin to focus on the language in a different way. It exercises different muscles, as it were, in your brain.

The OP is also something of a challenge for the actors. Not all of them are as well-practiced as others, and there are varying degrees of skill with this dialogue in OP. But even if you don’t understand every last word of every last line, you still get the gist of what is said, and I was never lost in the play.

The main roles are performed by the most experienced OP actors — this is Valerie Dowdle’s third OP performance. She is as remarkable as Cleopatra as she was as Portia two years ago, and as Hermione last year.

Valerie Dowdle as Cleopatra
(photographs by Will Kirk)

She clearly loves OP and has a lot of fun with the role of Cleopatra. She really gets the different facets of the character — her campiness, her silliness, her histrionics. And by the end of the play, her death is all the more moving. 

Chris Cotterman as Antony

 Chris Cotterman is a great Antony. He is another veteran OP performer — I saw him last year as Leontes, and as Bassanio two years ago. He is a solid leading man, and does an excellent job as Antony, one of the most powerful men in history, who is undone for his love of Cleopatra.

I especially liked how he showed a truly emotional side to Antony, which otherwise could be lost in less capable hands.

The founding Artistic Director of Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, and the director of this production is Tom Delise. He deserves so much credit for staking a claim as the one and only company in the world to consistently explore and re-discover Shakespeare through OP.

Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare’s most challenging plays, even without OP. I applaud Mr. Delise and his brave company for taking this challenge head on.

If you are anywhere Baltimore, I hope you make time to see this incredible production.

Cheers,


David B. Schajer