Coriolanus, or the Roman Matron—Bag & Baggage—Hillsboro, OR
The “Amazon” Solution
This production is based on Thomas Sheridan’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, freely adapted for the stage and directed by Scott Palmer (B&B’s Artistic Director). It is playing outdoors at the Tom Hughes Civic Plaza, 150 E. Main St., in Hillboro (bring your own chairs), through July 23rd. For more, information on the show and next season, check out their website atwww.bagnbaggage.org
This interpretation of the Bard’s work reminded me of the legend of the race of all-female, Amazon warriors, who ruled their own land with an iron fist. Men were used either as slaves and menial workers or as studs and, once those “duties” with the warriors was performed, were often killed, as when their only use, to propagate the race, was completed, they were of no use. Love did not seem to enter the picture.It is said that this feline military was so dedicated to warfare that many bowman would cut off a breast so that they could shoot arrows better. This production does not go to that extreme but it is no doubt that they are a force of nature to be reckoned with.
It seems that Caius Marcius (Cassie Greer) later, Coriolanus, is an important Roman general and has led her army to victory over the dreaded Volscians, their enemy, led by Aufidius (Bethany Mason). His wife, the timid, Virgilia (Lindsay Partain), his mother, the outspoken, Volumnia (MaryAnne Glazebrook) and their friend, the lady, Valeria (Arianne Jacques) highly approve of him and tout his victories to the people.
But it seems the Senate, consisting of the peacemaker, Menenius (Adrienne Southard) and two tough opponents of the military, the Tribunes, Sicinius (Morgan Cox) and Brutus (Lindsay Valencia-Reed) are not so easily appeased. Before they are willing to bestow the laurels of Consul (he already has been re-named, Coriolanus, after the city he captured) upon him, they want him to make a speech to the people, declaring his love for the masses and ensuring their support of him.
But he, and his troops, the Generals, Lartius (Signe Larsen) and Cominius (Autumn Buck) and a soldier (Zoe Flach), despise the lowly masses and will not flatter the Senate, nor the people, and so he quits the Roman army and chooses to offer his support to the enemy, who he has just defeated. This is, to say the least, an awkward situation for his family and friends and dire consequences lie ahead for his actions. To give out any more details would spoil the plot so you’ll just have to see it to discover the ending.
This is a very low-tech production with essentially no scenery and done on a bare stage area. But with some clever costuming and doubling of roles, the play forges ahead with no real confusion as to who’s who or where they are. This is a fine example of the “black box” style of doing theatre (where all that is needed is just a place to do the show, letting the actors’ talent, the author’s words and the audience’s imagination fill in the blanks). The look of a concrete jungle and barren rocks are just the right flavor for such a bleak story. The only annoying distraction was the Max trains coming through every few minutes, but the actors trained voices and the close proximity of the audience to them, pretty much overcame this.
I’m always impressed with Palmer’s choice of shows and adaptation of them (definitely not the mainstream) as well his talented troupe of actors. And tackling Shakespearean speech is no easy feat, but this group of eleven women is up to the task. From the title character, Greer (always a marvel) to a high school student, Flach, they all are articulate and have command of the necessary bravado necessary to convince us of their plight. And any resemblance to current events or people in today’s world is, I’m sure, purely…intentional!
Just look around at the military coups in other countries, the treatment of the downtrodden in all countries, the religious and cultural factions everywhere and the political circus currently happening with our Congress and the elections, and you can see that the story being told from about 400 years ago is really not so strange. Wouldn’t you have thought that we would have learned from past mistakes and attempted to change them? Instead, it seems we are proverbially doomed to repeat them!
The cast is all first-rate and, as mentioned, Greer is special…always! Her roles have ranged from Daisy in The Great Gatsby, to a singing gallant in one of Shakespeare’s comedies, to an cabin boy in Moby Dick, Rehearsed, to an austere Austin character, et. al., and all with perfect conviction. The talent she has goes deep to her roots and not all actors have it. She has the ability to inhabit a role and make it totally her own. Guinness and Sellers had that ability, as does Streep. I always look forward to seeing her in a play and know that she will always shine!
I recommend this play. If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.