We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Atlas Performing Arts Center: Lang
Thursday, July 17, 6:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 19, 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 23, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 26, 2:15 p.m.
They Say:Valor is the mark of Caius Marcius, but will all accept the rise of female power? As friends become foes, this lonely dragon enters a hunt that could empower all. . . or none.
Danny’s Take: Córiolanas, elysian theatre’s muscular adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, is well-acted, well-directed, well-designed and well worth the time. Emily Marsh convincingly embodies both the agency and suggestibility of the title character. Supported by a stellar cast, particularly Kim Tuvin as the quietly powerful Volumnia, the acting is some of the best I’ve yet seen at this year’s Capital Fringe.
For those unfamiliar with the play, it’s a classic Shakespearean tragedy. Coriolanus is a Roman general who loves fighting battles and hates just about everything else. When he gets elected to the Roman consulate, everything goes splendidly as he learns to come out of his shell and let his hair down for once! Just kidding, lots of terrible stuff happens and people die. It’s great.
But, as with all Shakespeare adaptations, the question is: what did they change? For elysian theatre, it’s the protagonist’s gender and, wisely, little else. This Coriolanas is every bit the abrasive-yet-weirdly-admirable misanthrope as Shakespeare’s, though the character’s complicating classism is disappointingly downplayed here. I was a little put off by the decision to add obligatory sexual tension with Coriolanas’ rival/hate-crush Tullus Aufidius at first, but I’ve been going back and forth on whether this diminishes or enriches the feminist reading of her character. Your mileage may vary on that one.
The production stumbles with a few other unnecessary alterations: Some ostensibly metaphorical sequences play under low lights and mystical music, but they mostly come off as clumsy and overly literal. Do I really need to see Coriolanas being pulled by invisible ropes to understand that people are trying to influence her? Thankfully, these sequences are infrequent enough to overlook, and the spare ethereal atmosphere works well everywhere else.
Overall, the show is faithful in all the right places and progressive in all the others. With tons of shows at the Fringe Fest and limited time to see them all, Coriolanas would be welcome near the top of any list. Director Elena Velasco’s program notes single out her favorite quote from the play: “Why do you wish me milder? Would you have me play False to my nature?”
No, Coriolanas, we love you just the way you are.
See it if: You prefer high-quality takes on the classics to Fringe’s more experimental shows.
Skip it if: You’re filthy rich and came hoping to hear some exquisite railing against poor people in iambic pentameter.
Photo by Derek David; courtesy Elysian Theatre.