A timeless writer, Shakespeare’s collection of works has been reproduced countless times over, though most interpretations lack the wild creativity of Shakespeare in the Dark’s upcoming production of “Antony and Cleopatra in Space.” The director, Alex Bulova ’19, not only designed the classic play “Antony and Cleopatra” to take place in outer space, but also crafted it into a staged radio play.
The plot begins by establishing the love between Cleopatra, played by Becca Symmes ’19, ruler of Egypt (or, in this extraterrestrial production, Venus), and Mark Antony, played by Anthony Madalone ’21, one member of the Roman (Martian) triumvirate. Tensions build between Antony and his fellow triumvir, Octavius Caesar, as Caesar grows in power, ultimately leading to a fierce ending befitting of a Shakespearean tragedy.
The show’s retooling into a radio play allows the actors to showcase their voice-acting talents. Each of the five primary actors portray multiple characters, and because of the lack of costume changes to distinguish characters from one another, each actor is required to modify his or her voice to differentiate between roles. In one scene, an actor may be speaking in their normal voice, the next they may be hunched over and screeching as a fortune teller. Every actor demonstrates incredible talent through their portrayal of multiple characters, some of whom go on intense emotional journeys. The cast’s deep understanding of the Shakespearean English text is also applaudable — each actor perfectly understands the meaning of every word they speak.
Conventional plays traditionally use more elaborate sets than the one used in “Antony and Cleopatra in Space.” In this case, though, a larger set would be unnecessary. Due to the lack of stage directions, the actors have no need to travel through a set. They stand when they deliver lines: that is all that’s needed. Rather than changing the set every time a location changes between scenes, images of the various planets or space ships in which scenes take place appear through a projector in the background.
Although traditionally a tragedy, SITD’s version of “Antony and Cleopatra” intertwines the cathartic drama with humorous moments. Between each of the five acts, actors portraying sponsors of the radio show enter the stage to sell quirky Shakespeare-themed products, the advertisements rampant with enough Shakespearean references and puns to have any avid fan giggling at the cleverness.
The Foley artist, Samantha Terry ’20, adds another layer of light-hearted comedy as she, in character as Stu the Sound Guy, creates the sound effects for the show using her voice and everyday objects. A visual of two spaceships battling is almost unnecessary while Stu humorously bangs two aluminum containers together and vocalizes the guns blasting the opposing ship. Alongside live sound effects, a live pianist, Adam Howard ’19, plays music throughout the show, adding a vibrant emotional aura.
A fascinating alteration to the show is the addition of a radio announcer, portrayed by Gil Osofsky ’20. His character’s voice is the epitome of what most imagine ‘30s radio announcers to sound like, adding a surprisingly paramount element that warps the audience back in time. To aid in the concentration required to keep track of who is portraying which characters, the announcer helps confused viewers by introducing present characters at the start of each scene.
Contradictory elements of ‘30s costumes and futuristic spaceships can be distracting, but it contributes to the overall innovative goofiness of the show. Everyone involved, from the slideshow operator to the actors, visibly enjoys their role, whether onstage or backstage. An infectious passion and enjoyment exude from all members of the production, enough to amplify any theatergoer’s experience.
The show’s performance dates are Nov. 1, 2 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Commonwealth Auditorium. Student admission is $5, and general admission is $7.
Editor’s Note: The Flat Hat would like to clarify that Anthony Madalone ’21 is an Opinions Associate Editor for the paper. His involvement with the “Antony and Cleopatra in Space” event is not on behalf of the paper’s interests.