Julius Caesar

Kathleen Akerley is one of the few playwrights working today who bravely peels open her own dramaturgy. In her 90-minute remix of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, she accomplishes this by various means, among them

  • a docent (frequent collaborator Séamus Miller) waltzing a bemused group of museum-goers across the set;
  • a dour editor (Miller again) pulling pages from a huge copy of the working script, dismissing each cut page as not relevant to her purposes;
  • via video projection, a trio of friends parked on the couch, watching/pausing the play as if it were a Netflix adaptation;
  • two gods (?) commenting on and trying to shape the narrative;
  • and yet more.

Despite the play’s heritage as a fixture of high school English literature classes, Akerley exposes the work for the “problem play” that it might be. After the assassination in Act III, why does a completely new faction of characters appear?

In Akerley’s version, the death of Caesar is not the point. Indeed, Caesar is never played by an actor, and his dead body is only represented by a bloodied mantle. The calculations that Cassius and Brutus make are still relevant today, and provoke discussion. But Akerley doesn’t take the easy road; early in her script, a character quickly dismisses any parallels to a recent disgraced American president.

  • Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, a modern retelling by Kathleen Akerley, directed by Kathleen Akerley, Avant Bard Theatre, Arlington, Va.