Tim Reader gives the title role a populist kind of accessibility that softens Caesar's pomposity. We don't exactly warm to this man, but it is hard to care much about one so self-deluded. Reader's Caesar nevertheless has a dignity that serves the plot, and he is most chillingly effective as a mutilated corpse, walking the ramparts above, warning Brutus in the flickering candlelight that they will meet at Philippi.

Natalie Hansen and Shannon Kelly do what they can with the secondary roles of Portia and Calpurnia, but Suzy Newman makes the most of the Soothsayer's foreboding. "The Ides of March are come," brags Caesar when he sees her. Newman fixes him with her eye and drones with ominous caution: "Aye, Caesar, but not gone."

All the actors struggle manfully to deal with the unflattering hemlines of their tunics, and the sea of knobby knees takes some getting used to. But aided by brilliant colors that enrich the cyclorama, and stirred by a rousing musical score, the play gives the audience a chance to hear Shakespeare deliver his epic unencumbered by the egos of the performers. Leaving it to the author to carry the evening is a wise decision, when, as Cassius prophesies: "How many ages hence/Shall this our lofty scene be acted over/In states unborn and accents yet unknown!"

In the past three months, I have seen The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet and now Julius Caesar. It's been one of the surprises of moving to this Valley-on-Avon. At least this time, in this state unborn, the accents are true to the text.

Finally, next week: new plays!
Marshall W. Mason has won six Obie Awards for directing work by playwrights Lanford Wilson, Tennessee Williams and Jules Feiffer. Mason is now associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University.

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