Thursday, August 8, 2013

Antony & Cleopatra at FringeNYC: "These strong Egyptian fetters I must break"

It's interesting how few Arab adapters of Shakespeare do anything with Antony and Cleopatra. The best-known adapter, the Egyptian "poet of princes and prince of poets" Ahmad Shawqi, made a point of appearing to avoid Shakespeare's version in his own Tragedy of Cleopatra, although M.M. Badawi finds evidence of Shakespearean influence.

But if you're in New York this month and feel like exploring the play's Egyptian resonances, check out this American-made Tahrir-themed adaptation by The Porch Room on the NYC fringe.  The company's press release follows:

The Porch Room Presents
Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives
The New York International Fringe Festival - FringeNYC
A production of The Present Company
August 9th - 25th| Tickets: $15-$18.
For tickets visit
Showtimes: 8/10 9pm |  8/11 2pm | 8/16 9:30pm |  8/18 4:45pm |  8/19 12noon
The Lynn Redgrave Theater  45 Bleecker Street  New York, NY 10012
The Porch Room is proud to present Anthony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives as part of the 17th annual New York International Fringe Festival - FringeNYC.  The play, a sold out hit at last year’s Philly Fringe Festival, will be directed by John P. Dowgin; it was written by Pete Barry and J. Michael DeAngelis, with original text by William Shakespeare.  Just named a “Top Eight Must See” show at the Fringe by!
Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives is the story of an Egyptian expatriate who gets caught between two revolutionaries - her fiancĂ©, an activist director who tries to upend his commissioned Shakespeare production, and her brother, a nationalist fresh from the violence of Tahrir Square.  Drawn from the events of 2011, this original play juxtaposes the recent Egyptian revolution alongside Cleopatra's Egypt as seen by Shakespeare. 

The show features Samantha Apfel, Thom Boyer, Kelsey Bramson, Catherine Cela, Tara Cioletti, Nick Imperato, Chelsea Lando, David Mazzucchi, Nazli Sarpkaya, Jackie Sherman, Brandon Smalls, Kyle Smith and Thanh Ta.  Devin Plantamura and Dustin Karrat are returning to reprise the roles they originated at last year’s Philly Fringe Festival.
Original music by Rebecca Kotcher.  Costumes by Olivia Rutigliano.  Directed by John P. Dowgin.  Written by Pete Barry and J. Michael DeAngelis, with original text by William Shakespeare.  Produced by The Porch Room.


Unknown said...

It was a clever idea. I think the playwright could have understood better though that "Caesar" in this case is the US. It is the US who kept Mubarak in power for 30 yrs. It is US Neo-Liberalism and IMF policies that made unemployment so high, and a few powerful military families so rich. It is US weapons being used on Egyptians today. None of these sordid facts were acknowledged in the play. In fact, being from Philadelphia, the company may be interested to know that tear gas shells found in Tahrir had Pennsyvlania companies on the labels.

It is also highly unlikely that an intellectual family with a young daughter sent abroad to university would have Islamic sympathies. Egyptians are a cosmopolitan society, despite how they are painted by our Media. The US has its share of fundamentalists too, and they are not usually in university or museum jobs and sending their daughters abroad to expensive schools. It is a shame that educated Americans could participate in stereotyping at this dangerous time in history.

It seems that instead of Rome playing with Egypt as may have been the case when Cleopatra was Queen, it is not any longer Ottomans or French or Brits. It is Americans. Hopefully, Americans will learn the real state of things soon. The "most luxurious" country is not a democracy anymore. Even Jimmy Carter now admits it! Occupy, while derided in the play, does reveal that more of us are waking up to the shadows on the cave wall! That would be another classical reference about which we should all remind ourselves about now.

Margaret Litvin said...

Thank you so much for the comment. I'd love to hear from others who saw the show - was unfortunately out of town and couldn't see it myself. Did the interweaving of contemporary Egyptian/American events and issues do anything to enrich the interpretation of the Shakespeare? Or vice versa?