‘Julius Caesar’ brings ancient Rome to Pasadena

Review by John K. Adams

What a pleasure it is to watch a well-wrought play, well staged.  William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at Pasadena’s A Noise Within, is that play. Wow!

You can still catch it, as it has been extended through May 24th.

The story depicts the conspiracy to assassinate a tyrant (Caesar), and its aftermath. Irony is undeniable as concepts of friendship, honor, and loyalty become conflicted and are twisted beyond recognition by the duplicitous conspirators.

The taut direction drives the plot relentlessly forward, as if in real time, and for the first time. Acting and technical credits are all superb.

I have never seen anything so chilling as the conspirators’ savage attack on Caesar, beautifully and horrifically choreographed by Ken Merckx. Ever the warrior, Caesar defends himself, until the moment he realizes his friend Brutus has joined the attack. Caesar collapses and they fall on him like wolves, screaming “Peace! Freedom! Liberty!”

With Caesar dead, these “honorable men” waste no time garnering power. The crowd’s loyalty is swayed with each mouthing of the words “honor,” “loyalty,” and other demagoguery. Civil war inevitably breaks out.

The moody lighting complements the stark economy of the set pieces where this tragedy, depicting ancient power struggles, plays out in a utilitarian present. Modern era long coats echo Roman garb without distraction.

Julius Caesar is intense, beautiful, moving, and suspenseful until the final blackout.

See it.

A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena. Information is available at www.anoisewithin.org or (626) 356-3100.

This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on May 22nd, 2015.

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