“Antony and Cleopatra” Produced by Seattle Shakespeare Company

The sexy opening music of Seattle Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” played while Cleopatra’s courtiers romp in an oversized sandbox sets the mood for this production. It’s all about passion, but much more than the sexual passion between the two lead characters. There’s also the passionate striving for power by Octavius Caesar, Lepidus, Mark Antony, and Pompey.

This is a play about lust—for position as well as for sexual satisfaction. And, as you all know, it doesn’t end well for the main characters. But oh, what a spectacle the production provides on the way to the denouement.

Amy Thone as Cleopatra, garbed in Pete Rush’s mostly luscious costumes, is temptress as well as harridan. Chameleon-like, she slithers around the stage seducing at one moment, berating at the next. This emotionally distraught lover becomes the iron-willed despot in the blink of an eye.

Hans Altwies as the besotted Mark Antony is the real-life husband of Ms. Thone, and their personal relationship adds a fillip to the production. But it’s his wife’s stage, and everyone else including Mr. Altwies and the fine Darragh Kennan as Octavius Caesar pales in Cleopatra’s presence.

Lots of impressive stagecraft here. Director John Langs has taken full advantage of the large Intiman stage to present a production that would have been impossible in the company’s usual home, the theatre in Seattle Center’s Armory (formerly Center House). Battles are imaginatively choreographed, especially the sea battle where Cleopatra withdraws the fleet she had promised to Antony.

The play has been cut to about three hours, but even that makes a long night or afternoon for modern audiences. Be prepared, and you won’t be sorry.

Through Nov. 18 at the Playhouse (formerly Intiman), 201 Mercer Street, Seattle (206 733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).

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