Tina Benko, Gregg Henry, Teagle F. Bougere, and Elizabeth Marvel. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The reviews are in for Oskar Eustis’ production of Shakespeare’s drama under the stars at the Delacorte Theater, with not-so-subtle references to the Commander in Chief.
Presented by The Public Theater
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Oskar Eustis
Tina Benko, Teagle F. Bougere, Yusef Bulos, Eisa Davis, Robert Gilbert, Gregg Henry, Edward James Hyland, Nikki M. James, Christopher Livingston, Elizabeth Marvel, Chris Myers, Marjan Neshat, Corey Stoll, John Douglas Thompson, Natalie Woolams-Torres, Isabel Arraiza, Erick Betancourt, Mayaa Boateng, Motell Foster, Dash King, Tyler La Marr, Gideon McCarty, Nick Selting, Alexander Shaw, Michael Thatcher, Justin Walker White
Playing through June 18, 2017
Jesse Green – New York Times
In that sense, this “Julius Caesar” is a deeply democratic offering, befitting both the Public and the public — and the times. If in achieving that goal it flirts a little with the violent impulses it otherwise hopes to contain, and risks arousing pro-Trump backlash, that’s unfortunate but forgivable. Mr. Eustis seems to have taken to heart Cassius’s admonition to Brutus when Brutus is still on the fence about taking action. “Think of the world,” he begs. It’s a line that cuts two ways.
Marilyn Stasio – Variety
Brutus is a commanding figure in the Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar.” The wily Mark Antony also looms large. But the most fearsome character in the show isn’t standing on stage — not even in the person of a Donald Trump-like Caesar — but instead storming the bleachers and shouting in the aisles. It’s the mindless Roman mob, or, as director Oskar Eustis’s politically slanted production slyly insinuates, it’s the ecstatic mobs at a Trump rally. Although the show whipped up controversy when funders pulled out over right-wing objections, the furor isn’t warranted: Anyone who reads the plays knows Shakespeare’s main message is that no matter how much you want to get rid of your current political leader, don’t kill him.
Jennifer Vanasco – WNYC
Oskar Eustis has slimmed down and sharpened Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to make a stinging political point: Democracy is fragile and Donald Trump is not the worst thing that can happen to America.
Matt Windman – AM New York
With all due respect to the Public Theater and its artistic director Oskar Eustis, was it really appropriate to turn the title character of Shakespeare’s action-packed political thriller “Julius Caesar” into a caricature of Donald Trump?
Frank Scheck – The Hollywood Reporter
Here’s an unsolicited suggestion to artists of all genres: How about laying off mock representations of the murder of the president? As the Kathy Griffin imbroglio recently demonstrated, it’s generally not well-received. More to the point, Donald Trump has been president for less than a year — I know, it feels a lot longer — but using him to make satirical points has already become cliché. Case in point: the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, in which the assassinated title character is portrayed as you-know-who, an artistic choice that inevitably has raised eyebrows over at Fox News.
Elizabeth Vincetelli – Newsday
Oskar Eustis’ modern-dress staging at Shakespeare in the Park draws parallels, too — in broad strokes with thick Sharpies and neon-colored highlighters.
Jeremy Gerard – Deadline
The murder at the Delacorte comes about half way through this trim, 2-hour, intermissionless production. The crowd hooted at Caesar and Calpurnia’s entrance, as if from the bowels of a Roman Trump Tower. But there was no laughter, indeed silence ruled, during the assassination scene. No one walked out or laughed, either. It was a breath-bating moment in a very good production whose singular drawback is that, like John McCain’s questioning of James Comey, it makes no sense.
Jose Solis – StageBuddy
It’s significant that as the play begins we see a wall with thoughts and notes aligned under two columns: I Mourn For/I Hope For. That message in David Rockwell’s clever set design sets the mood for what turns out to be an introspective production in which we are reminded that indeed the fault is in ourselves, the stars shining over Central Park remain innocent and impotent shining their light on how we exercise our wisdom, or our lack thereof.
Devan Coggan – Entertainment Weekly
Caesar isn’t 100-percent analogous with our times, and the show can get a little heavy-handed in trying to draw parallels between 44 B.C. and 2017. (Protesters wear pink pussy hats and Guy Fawkes masks, while Caesar’s supporters don red baseball hats that read: “Build Rome in a day.”) But the Public’s production is less interested in setting up a perfect analogy than it is in using Caesar as a jumping-off point, sparking discussion about power and justice. Bringing these complicated themes to the public for free is a worthwhile cause — which is why it’s such a shame that Delta, Bank of America, and others have withdrawn support for Shakespeare in the Park over the staging. Although the Public’s version isn’t perfect, it’s a worthy attempt to bring Shakespeare’s most deeply democratic work into the present, with a lively, contemplative production. What could be more noble than that?