— Playbill (@playbill) May 30, 2017
Shakespeare in the Park, an annual summer program by The Public Theater that puts on plays by William Shakespeare in Central Park, kicked off May 23 with a performance of Julius Caesar.
But this rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy comes with a twist — Caesar is played by a character that bears a striking resemblance to President Donald Trump.
According to Playbill, The Public Theater’s Oskar Eustis directed the Trump-inspired take on the classic political drama, which boasts famed stage actor John Douglas Thompson and House of Cards star Corey Stoll in its cast.
The choice of Julius Caesar for the annual program is one dripping with subtext, chosen deliberately for the supposed parallels between the Roman dictator and Trump. A description of the play on The Public Theater’s website states that “Shakespeare’s political masterpiece has never felt more contemporary.”
It describes the Roman leader as “Magnetic, populist, irreverent,” and “bent on absolute power.” The description also notes that a “small band of patriots, devoted to the country’s democratic traditions, must decide how to oppose him.”
Those who have read Shakespeare’s play know how that opposition manifests itself (brace for spoilers): a group of conspirators — including his friends Cassius and Brutus — stab Caesar to death on the Senate floor.
Laura Sheaffer, a sales manager at Salem Media who attended a performance of Julius Caesar on Saturday, first described the the Trump-inspired performance during an interview with Joe Piscopo on AM 970 THE ANSWER, the audio of which you can hear below.
“The actor playing Caesar was dressed in a business suit, with a royal blue tie, hanging a couple inches below the belt line, with reddish-blonde hair — just like Trump,” Sheaffer told Mediaite.
“I always go to Shakespeare in the park, but I wasn’t expecting to see this,” Sheaffer said, adding that the script was mostly loyal to the original Shakespeare, and that there was no explicit reference to the American president, though the intention was “blatantly obvious.”
In the scene before Caesar is assassinated, his wife Calpurnia begs him to stay away from the Senate, claiming she is having nightmares of his murder. According to Sheaffer, the actress playing Calpurnia bore a resemblance to first lady Melania Trump — replete with a “Slavic accent.”
Sheaffer also noted that in the scene, the actor playing
Trump Caesar steps out of a bathtub stark naked, which she said struck her as disrespectful, and a “mockery of the office of the President.”
In the next scene the Trumpian Caesar is attacked by the Senators and stabbed to death as an American flag hovers overhead, according to Sheaffer. “They had the full murder scene onstage, and blood was spewing everywhere out of his body.”
“To be honest I thought it was shocking and distasteful,” Sheaffer continued. “If this had happened to any other president — even as recently as Barack Obama or George W. Bush — it would not have flown. People would have been horrified.”
“I mean it was the on-stage murder of the president of the United States,” she said.
Sheaffer pointed out that the play ends with Marc Anthony celebrating Brutus for his bravery, saving the Romans from Caesar’s rule. “The message it sent was that if you don’t support the president, it’s ok to assassinate him.”
“I don’t love President Trump, but he’s the president. You can’t assassinate him on a stage,” Sheaffer said.
The Public Theater’s brutal on-stage murder of a fluffy blonde haired, long-tie wearing Caesar comes as Kathy Griffin’s photoshoot posing with a facsimile of Donald Trump’s severed head was met with swift, universal, bipartisan outrage and condemnation.
“Kathy Griffin got so much coverage for what she did, everyone was horrified, so why is no one horrified by this, which is essentially the murder of the President of the United States in front of 2,000 people?” Sheaffer said.
“The performance was well done, and the actors did a good job. It was fascinating to see the parallels between the Trump administration and Caesar’s rule, but murdering the president on stage was just too far,” Sheaffer concluded.
[image via screengrab]
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