A great amount of energy has been infused under the direction of David Staller into the mounting of Bernard Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra,” revived by the Gingold Theatrical Group. The energy charge is particularly potent in the intimate Theatre One of Theatre Row on West 42nd Street.
Shaw’s clever play provides a somewhat satirical look at Caesar in Egypt at the end of the XXXIII dynasty trying to mold a young, inexperienced Cleopatra into the ruler she is to become. In the process he also asserts his Roman power. There is much humor in Shaw’s writing, as well as a plot involving lethal action.
The staging, all the energy notwithstanding, depends largely on the effectiveness of the casting. Robert Cuccioli is especially good as Caesar. Cuccioli creates a dominant figure with a powerful voice, sharp enunciation and commanding demeanor.
Teresa Avialim as Cleopatra is timid at the outset, as called for in the script, but gathers effectiveness that culminates in a more forceful presence as the demands on her increase. But sometimes it is difficult to take the character seriously, which is not helped by the costume design of Tracy Christensen.
Caesar and other characters wear garb that fits the period with an aura of realism. But when Cleopatra is at the height of her assertiveness in the play, she appears in what could pass as a white cocktail dress at a Manhattan party. She looks good, but the dress is so totally out of sync with the time that one is diverted and led to wonder if there was a point being made. Why give her a today look?
Mainly, however, the Gingold company has provided a service by giving us another viewing of Shaw’s work rarely performed but very worth seeing and discussing. Others in the cast include Brenda Braxton, Jeff Applegate, Jonathan Hadley, Rajesh Bose and Dan Domingues. The set design, including an odd high wooden construction around which the action occurs, is by Brian Prather. At Theatre Row’s Theatre One, 410 West 42nd Street, Reviewed September 25, 2019.