Sumptuous Coriolana Tells Age-Old Human Tale
Paul Brissett, Duluth News Tribune
Coriolana, an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s less-often produced plays, opened a captivating production Thursday at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center. Director Kate Ufema adapted the script to posit a Rome that, in about 80 A.D., had had its male population so ravaged by generations of war that women had become its leaders. Her alterations to the script consist mostly of changing all gender pronouns and swapping the feminine and masculine Latin name endings. Hence, the character Coriolanus in Shakespeare’s version becomes Coriolana. The essential story elements of personal integrity and political maneuvering, though, are unaffected by the changes.
Caia Marcia is a brilliant Roman general who, for her victories, is given the name Coriolana and named consul of Rome. But she refuses to pretend sympathy for hungry plebians whom she feels are undeserving of the city’s grain stores because they haven’t served in the military Two tribunes, Bruta and Sicinia, scheme to create citizen opposition to Coriolana being consul, ultimately ordering her banned from Rome. Stung, Coriolana goes to a former enemy, Tulla Aufidia, asking that she either kill her or allow her to join Aufidia’s next assault on her ungrateful city.
It’s a sumptuous production, from a soaring lattice-work stockade of a set, to Laura Peotrowski’s stylized period costumes. Graeme Shields’ music and Paul Blakely’s sound design complement the dialogue and action perfectly, and Sue Ellen Berger’s lighting both creates mood and focuses attention.
But it is Ufema’s well-known passion for the correct delivery of Shakespeare’s language that more than anything draws the audience into the characters and their story. Even the briefest, most casual comment is delivered with not only conviction but impeccable diction.
As Coriolana, Elizabeth Efteland exudes the warrior’s arrogance and the general’s “command presence” from the moment she swaggers onstage to sneer at the hungry rabble. But she’s equally convincing as the torn and tormented daughter, wife and mother being begged to spare Rome. Colleen Lafeber as Sicinia and Brittany Mingo as Bruta drip a delicious venom as they scheme to bring about Coriolana’s destruction. And Emilie LaBonte is riveting as Menenia, Coriolana’s friend, who beseeches her to soften her tone even as she urges her detractors to remember that Coriolana is a warrior, not a politician. As Coriolana’s daughter, first-grader Cece Stender maintains a focus and a grasp of her character that would be a credit to many actors multiples of her age.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on April 26, 2013 8:34 AM.
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