REVIEW: #Coriolanus#Shakespeare#populistrebels

“#Coriolanus” adapted by Paul Bedard; based on the text “Coriolanus” by Shakespeare

Believe it or not, Shakespeare and Twitter make quite the politically charged pair. Theater in Asylum has created a fascinating adaptation of “Coriolanus” that questions the effects, and even repercussions, of instant viral democracy practiced via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This innovative production incorporates original music, dance, and Twitter feeds to modernize the context of the play, while remaining true to the characters and plot.

With a slimmer character list and abbreviated text, director Paul Bedard smartly breathes fresh air into a classic. The first scene in the play opens with hashtags and Tweets (Twitter posts) projected on all three walls of the playing space. The Tweets represent the citizens of Rome who are rioting against the government. As their presence abruptly interrupts Volumnia’s opening speech, we realize that their voices carry an authority. Soon after, the power-hungry matriarch, Volumnia (Madeline Reed), seizes the opportunity to advance her son’s social position when the Volscian army goes to war with Rome. Her son, Coriolanus (Russel Peck), is already a respected military official, but his triumph against the Voscian leader, Aufidius (Martin Boersma), grants him leverage in running for Consul. However, the young militant happens to be a hothead with a temper and two mischievous Roman guards, Brutus (Julie Robles) and Sicinius (Julia Giozetti), are determined to expose his ill temperament to the citizens of Rome. It’s worth noting that Robles and Giozetti are hilarious comedic actors and have great chemistry as a duo; they earned several hearty laughs.

Now this is where the twist comes into play. The guards virally spread disagreeable images and videos of Coriolanus at his worst. He is portrayed as a greedy and heartless dictator, often insulting the very people he wishes to gain support from. Within minutes, the footage goes viral and Coriolanus’ campaign quickly unravels. As the Roman citizens continue to re-circulate his wrongdoings, a vicious frenzy emerges where they ultimately demand death for Coriolanus. Elitism is thrown out the window as populism overpowers; and all from the mechanisms of Twitter! He is not killed just yet, although he is banished eternally from Rome.

The concept of this production was extremely clever in its relevancy to current western society where ideas are easily magnified online. However, the technical execution of projecting the live Twitter feeds missed the mark on occasion since the text was difficult to read sometimes. The movement and soundscape throughout the production made the show. The physically rigorous choreographies by Katie Palmer were hypnotic and sexually provocative, especially during the lengthy fight scenes between Peck and Boersma, which were truly memorable. Also, kudos must be given to the wonderfully talented composer, Randall Benichak, whose original score was off-the-charts. #TheEnd

“Coriolanus” continues through July 20th at Under St. Marks, 94 Saint Marks Place, Manhattan; 212-868-4444, www.horsetrade.info.

Originally Published on Show Business

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