Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Review: Conversations in Tusculum

New policy: I'm going to quote from the first 2-3 paragraphs of my reviews -- but you'll still have to click on over to read the rest. Because I like to tease.

My review of Conversations in Tusculum in Back Stage:

The relationship between Julius Caesar and a sea of adversaries — Cato, Cicero, Cassius, Brutus — takes time to sort through in Richard Nelson's Conversations in Tusculum. After all, some of these men later conspired to kill Caesar. But Nelson's nose doesn't smell evil in ancient Rome as much as parallels between Caesar's effect on the Roman republic and a Republican's, George W. Bush, on the United States.

For Act 1, Nelson plunges into the world of Tusculum — a country enclave outside Rome where the elite meet to summer — in 45 B.C., imagining what Caesar's vanquished enemies, worried for their nation's future, said and feared about him. Using a few of Thomas Lynch's set pieces, Nelson delicately shuffles his six-actor cast around the Anspacher Theater stage, permitting the audience to feel as if it's listening to wiretaps of private chats. Given the dialogue's pitched urgency — and several well-rendered performances — Nelson gently prods the audience to infer Caesar-Bush comparisons. Then, in Act 2, Nelson takes out a hammer and bludgeons the audience with it.

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