“Et tu, Brute?”
A famous line uttered by even those who don’t know it is Shakespeare. It is spoken when one friend betrays another.
Does this make Marcus Junius Brutus a bad guy? Anton Solomon is not sure.
He plays Brutus in Moving Parts Theatre’s Julius Caesar Feb. 18 to 21 and Feb. 24 at the Wood Street Centre, and he feels it is not his job to answer that question.
“If people come out from watching the play and wonder if Brutus did or did not do something wrong, that’s a good thing,” says Solomon.
“It depends on what you think of Julius Caesar.”
Solomon chose this character for himself for just this reason: “He is the least certain of anyone else on stage, so he is the one the audience is interested in.”
He explains that whereas the audience may agree killing is necessary in extreme situations such as self-defence, Brutus grapples with the question of whether killing is justifiable for the good of Rome.
There is no such conflict with other characters such as Cassius (played by Doug Mayr), who absolutely wants to see Caesar dead, even if it is just for his own personal reasons.
And Mike Ivens, a veteran MPTer, plays Caesar as absolutely arrogant and vain and who doesn’t see his own death coming at the hands of Brutus et al.
“He was a general, so he wasn’t stupid,” says Solomon, who is also MPT’s producer and the director of the play.
“His tragedy is that those who put him in power were against him.”
Unspoken, but true, is that the mob in this play is fickle, as it switches allegiances from Pompey to Caesar, the man who caused his death, and then to the man who helped kill Caesar, Brutus, and then to Mark Antony.
Solomon speaks of “The Mob” as a character. They are the reason so many great speeches are delivered in this play.
Remember, “Beware the Ides of March.” That is from a soothsayer to Caesar.
And then there is “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Shakespeare again. That is from Marcus Antonius who, through great oratory, turns the mob’s hatred from himself to Brutus.
It is said that William Shakespeare wrote his royalty-themed plays for the benefit of Britain’s royalty. In the words were warnings of the consequences of poorly made decisions and of what happens when passion rules reason.
Yes, it is a coincidence that a play with such great speeches was chosen in this age of Obama.
Solomon says the new American president was just one of several contenders for the Democratic nomination when he chose the play. But now, “Wow! We have to ride this wave.”
One scene calls for the mob to chant, “Jul-ius! Jul-ius! Instead, he changed the meter to “Jul-i-us! Jul-i-us!” to match the oft-chanted, “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!”
Julius Caesar shows Wednesday to Saturday, Feb. 18 to 21 and Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. at Wood Street Centre. There are matinées Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21 and 22, at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Well-Read Books and at the door.