Like Mark Antony with the real deal, actors grappling with Shakespeares Cleopatra usually find they have their hands full. If the character were more likeable, an actress might play her as the prototypical femme fatale who (unlike a Snickers bar), makes hungry where most she satisfies. Instead, shes narcissistic and abrasive, almost daring the audience to hate her -- a character only grand tragedy can save.
Fortunately, they dont come much grander than Southwest Shakespeare Companys mounting of Antony and Cleopatra. Like a vanity flick or film noir that delves one shade too dark, the Bards most ambivalent tragedy leaves the audience struggling to define how they feel about the characters, their relationships and their actions. Are these passionate potentates laudable or laughable? Sifting through the ambiguity might just be the point.
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