NME After Print: Caesar's Blood (Review)
The only regret I have with Caesar’s Blood is I didn’t see it sooner.
Caesar’s Blood, written by Rich Rubin and directed by Ryan Jason Cook, is a look into The Booth Brothers, famed actors Junius, Edwin and John Wilkes, during their one and only performance together in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1864. Act one covers events that happen before they step on stage and act two covers what happens after the play. The story rounds out with the additional characters of The Booth’s mother, Mary Ann Holmes and Edwin’s dresser, an ex-Slave named Benjamin Walker. The play covers John Wilkes’ strong positions on pro-confederacy and pro-slavery, which conflicts with Junius and Edwin’s pro-Union stance.
The direction of this production was outstanding. The set design was beautiful and the lighting and undertones of music added to the intimate feel of the production. Kudos to Nick Tapia, Nina Dorrance, Lando Ruiz and their team for their hard work The positioning of the actors on stage was daunting at times, causing actors to upstage each other, but with the use of imaginary mirrors, the actors make it work, still connecting with the audience in every scene.
Micah Linford, who plays Edwin Booth, has the stature of Orson Wells. With a booming presence, Linford displays Edwin’s true love of the theater, improving his craft, while pretending to not feel the jealousy of being the brother looked down upon - consistently looking for his parent’s approval.
Shangreaux Lagrave as Junius Booth is the perfect balance between John & Edwin, constantly playing referee between the brother’s egos. His performance was powerfully subtle.
Stafford Douglas as John Wilkes showed an array of sides for a man that I’ve only known as Lincoln’s assassin. Douglas could invoke a laugh one moment and have you looking at him with disgust the next. He did an excellent job creating a three-dimensional creation of John, going beyond what we’ve learned from the history books. The madness of John’s words - Douglas brought such fear to them, reflecting sadly on what we are hearing in the news today.
Debi Keirst as Mary Ann Holmes, the mother of the Booth boys, is delightful. Dimwitted at times, Kierst was perfect at being the quickly, judgmental parent, able to show love and dismay at the same time. Even though we’re told parents never have a favorite child, Holmes had hers and made sure to let Edwin and Junius know.
Benjamin Waters, played by Hakim Bellamy, is done with such elegance and grace. Suffering from the ignorance of his time reflected strongly by John Wilkes, Bellamy grabs your attention, making his presence known every time he steps on stage. He is full of patience, dealing with being a free man while still being seen as a slave, Bellamy causes the audience to take part in his journey, difficult as it may be.
Rich Rubin’s play explores in-depth sibling rivalry and individuals fighting to find their place in the world. Needless to say, Caesar’s Blood, is a look at a time of turmoil and the dynamics of one family who we truly did not know. The performance was a strong one and this reviewer was happy to experience it.