At a time overripe with politics, the Source Theatre is staging its own "election special."
It is Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," the story of a politically motivated act and its consequences for individual men and the state.
On a bare stage with few trappings, Bart Whiteman, who founded Source three years ago, has mounted a creditable production. Not every idea works on the stage (the last-act battle scenes with bodies could have been the offensive and defensive lines of the Redskins and Vikings). The cast is uneven in performance. But there is imagination at work, and Shakespeare's lines are spoken clearly and with conviction.
Whiteman does well with limited resources. The 15 members of the cast double and triple in the many roles of the play.
"There is a historical reference that 15 was the number in the company that put on the play during Shakespeare's time," Whiteman says. "So we are at full company."
Whiteman has staged his production on a bare stage with audience seats at two ends. Two huge drawings of Joe Scalero in his role of Julius Caesar dominate the other two sides. So Caesar's presence is felt throughout the play -- while Brutus searches his conscience, while the conspirators meet, while Mark Antony makes his speech, and while the armies clash on the plains of Philippi.
Gary Floyd's lighting design makes good use of a darkened stage to mask the conspiratorial plotting of the assassins. Fortunately, a blue-dyed draped sheet doubles well for a toga and the improvised costumes -- with sweat pants, white levi's and long gowns -- aren't too jarring until the battle scenes in the last act.
The major roles, if not inspired, are performed with professionalism. Some are not fully realized: Michael Sutton's Cassius at times seems more an angry young man than Shakespeare's subtly cunning conspirator Geoff Wilner warms to the role of Brutus in the play's last scenes, but doesn't completely convey the tortured conscience of this idealist.
Christopher Hurt brings a ringing resonant voice to the role of Mark Antony and the funeral oration if he does miss some of the subtle ironies of the lines. During the oration, the crowd is heard offstage. When Brutus speaks earlier, this staging works. But with Antony's oration, we are not able to see the crowd's reaction as the speaker works on their emotions, holding up the Caesar's bloody mantle and waving his will with its promise of bequests to the populace of Rome. As Decius Brutus, Richard Mancini is excellent as the flatterer who works on Caesar's ego to persuade him to go to the Senate.
"Julius Caesar" will run through Nov. 23 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The Theater is at 1809 14th St. NW.