Although not nearly as well-known as that other star-crossed Shakespearean tragedy, modern times seem right to revisit the passion, politics and catastrophe of “Antony and Cleopatra.”
“To bring a sort of contemporary reference to it, it’s kind of a blend in my mind between ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘House of Cards,’” said actor Rick Nelson, who plays Roman leader Mark Antony in Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s new production of William Shakespeare’s history-based epic.
“It’s got (“House of Cards” star) Kevin Spacey’s kind of whole political maneuvering and trying to outdo each other politically and using his wife or his lover as leverage to get what he wants. ... Then it’s got the sort of passion and romance and pageantry of, like, ‘Game of Thrones.’”
While the company will take off Friday to celebrate Independence Day, “Antony and Cleopatra” will send sparks flying Thursday and Saturday at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage, with performances continuing July 10-12 and 17-18.
“It’s about a couple of famous people who essentially run the world as they know it that become a little careless wielding their power. And they pay for it,” Nelson said. “That’s where lies the tragedy, is that you see them so desperately trying to hang on — tooth and nail — to what they have, and it’s just being taken away from them by a younger generation, through their own mistakes. I mean, they’re to blame for a lot of their downfall, which most tragedies are.”
Not only is “Antony and Cleopatra” the second production of the company’s 30th anniversary season, it also marks just the second time in its three-decade history that Oklahoma Shakespeare has staged The Bard’s dramatization of one of history’s best-remembered — and ill-fated — love affairs.
“I’m not sure why we have not done this play more often, because it’s a good play. It’s so fun to work on a play that you don’t know backwards and forwards like ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” said Kathryn McGill, the company’s executive and artistic director and co-founder. “I know I was inspired to do it because I don’t act as much as I would like because I’m just too busy, and when I do get a chance, I want to do something that I’m going to get excited about. And this is that role.”
McGill will play Egyptian Queen Cleopatra opposite Nelson’s Antony, and she relishes the opportunity take on one of William Shakespeare’s most multifaceted female roles. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra are crafty and experienced, a pair of star-crossed lovers more suited to today’s “50 is the new 30” zeitgeist.
“It’s so much fun, because they talk about her ‘infinite variety’ ... and ‘that age cannot whither her,’” McGill said. “The other great thing about this role is it needs to be played by an older person because they constantly talk about how Antony and Cleopatra are in the waning years. They’re not young people, this is kind of their last big chance at love, and I think that’s why it’s so passionate.”
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’