Whether or not we are cheering for a certain character in a play needs to come from more than just being told that someone is the protagonist or good guy. We must feel something for the character based on the feelings the actors put toward that character. And ultimately I think this is why Seattle Shakespeare Company's current production of "Coriolanus" fails so miserably.
One of Shakespeare's lesser known plays ( I don't know how many people told me they weren't sure what it was about) we encounter Roman General Caius Martius as he hacks and battles his way through the riots. After a stunning victory, this soldier is convinced, partially by his Mother, to run for Consul riding on the coattails of his fame in battle and recently being dubbed with the name Coriolanus based on that victory. He does and is named consul but two Tribunes unhappy with his rise to power, incite another riot in the people and get him banished forcing Coriolanus to ally himself with his former enemy Aufidius. Yeah, this is one of the really political plays. This can be fine if done well.
However it felt as if director David Quicksall was concerned more with the action of the play and less with the characters as the play started at about 50 mph in intensity and then only ever went down to 40 or so. So it was a very one note kind of evening which is just boring. And this amped up feeling didn't help the actors who seemed to have difficulty connecting with their characters much less each other. Even our anti-hero Coriolanus (David Drummond) seemed so uninvested that I found it difficult to care for anything he was faced with. And that was kind of the theme for all the performances. The only honest moment I felt was at the top of act two when Coriolanus stumbles upon the home of Aufidius (Mike Dooly) and the two generals face off and ultimately find common ground. Finally there was a moment of truth but then it fell right back into actors saying the pretty words with no meaning behind them and sometimes not even saying them well and some of the actors really need to enunciate more.
That level of inconsistency and forced intensity also spilled its way over to the costumes, sets and lighting as there seemed to be no through-line for the show just a mish mash of things they could pull from what they had. And the final moment of the show which I could see wanted to be a slow burn of tragic intensity, just felt interminable as we had so little feeling for the title character. All I kept thinking was, "Just bring the lights down already so I can go home." All in all a big miss from Seattle Shakes and 2 hours and 40 minutes of my life I'm never getting back.
"Coriolanus" from Seattle Shakespeare Company plays at the Center House Theatre through January 29th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakes box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.
Photo credit: John Ulman