The theatre goes dark as lights slowly illuminate—a bronze room sets the stage for Studio 58’s twist on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. There’s an ominous but sultry essence in the air as the performers emerge, and it quickly becomes obvious that this is both a beginning and an end. Cleopatra is assisted by her head of household and deputy head. Antony appears and walks toward Cleopatra, who is taking the final sips to her poisonous death. The two embrace and fall to their demise. Through intertwined bodies rises a ghost—it is Antony. Standing, he takes Cleopatra’s crown to his own head, power and confidence striking his gaze as the jewelled piece sits upon his brow. But this is no longer Antony the audience is watching—he is now the ghost of Cleopatra.
The show takes the audience back in time, providing an open invitation to join in a celebration of lust and indulgence. As Cleopatra, actor Dylan Floyde’s presence is commanding and even intimidating, like watching a tiger rise above the feast of its prey. He fills the space of the room, with a gown and servants swaying closely behind. Cleopatra’s movements are at once strong, swift, soft and sensual— casting desire and weakness upon those around her. It’s a compelling and powerful portrayal of this famous female, played by a masculine figure.
Floyde attributes his commanding stage presence to the guidance of the show’s choreographer, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg.
“She encouraged me to explore graceful movements, like gliding across the floor.,” says Floyde, though he also devoted a lot of time exploring his own body to prepare for the role.
“I watched films, [especially ones with] Audrey Hepburn. I wore high heels and examined how they made me feel in my body. I spent time looking at others and learned that when I work from my body, it’s more natural and I don’t overthink it.”
Additional gender-reversed characters are introduced throughout the company’s season-opener. Ivy Charles embraced her own portrayal of a man in power as Mark Antony, commanding the stage and audience with a tall posture and booming voice. With her feminine, petite physique, Emily Ross packs the most punch throughout the show as Caesar—commanding an all-female gaggle of advisors traditionally played by men. The role reversal are meant to challenge the audiences preconceived notions of gender roles, all while the cast seems natural in their ability to embody the tactics and techniques of the opposite sex.
Floyde was surprised by his own ability to relate so much to the character of Cleopatra. “I’ve always been comfortable in my body but I didn’t realize I could be as sexual and sensual [as Cleopatra],”says Floyde. “Her mood can shift so quickly. She could go from loving and gentle to fierce and fiery. I am alike that way, but I usually turn that part of me down.”
Cleopatra flies into a rage when she learns of Antony re-marrying, returning to feelings of love and devotion when she realizes the union is out of necessity. Ultimately, it is Antony’s devotion and weakness for Cleopatra that causes wars to be waged. The cast and crew skillfully portray these battles, using music, lights and choreography to signal fights at sea and on land.
The play ends where it began: Antony by the side of a dying Cleopatra – with a dying Cleopatra and Antony by her side—a finale of their tumultuous relationship and the political turmoil that followed. The cast of this modern take on a classic tale showed astounding vulnerability, strength and dedication to gender-bending. The outcome was an edgy and boundary-pushing performance that you can see now until October 13th.
Wednesday & Thursday $20-$21
Friday & Saturday $25.00
Previews & Matinees $17.00