“Coriolanus by Seattle Shakespeare

Oh brave Coriolanus, did you not know that pride goeth before the fall? But how could you? Your ambitious mother would never include that in her lessons. Sad for you. Your pride and vengeance will kill you in the end.

In this, one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies, we see a brave and successful warrior undone by hubris and arrogance. He wins a mighty battle, returns to Rome a hero, but he won’t pander to the commoners he detests, and so, despite his valor, he’s exiled from the city he saved. Outraged, he encourages Rome’s enemies to renew their attack under his leadership. It doesn’t work out as he planned. Coriolanus pays with his life.

Director David Quicksall has staged this production in a way that sets it firmly in ancient Rome yet at the same time places it in modern times. He achieves this through Peter Rush’s clever costumes and Gordon Carpenter’s swordplay choreographed as a violent modern ballet. The modern touches reinforce the play’s pertinence to our own society and the world in which we exist. Not much has changed in politics or the power of the rich in more than 2000 years.

David Drummond’s tall, strapping Coriolanus is a presence to be reckoned with. He snarls, shouts angry epithets, spits out scornful curses. Yet despite the overall image of power that he projects, he can be vulnerable when the part calls for it.

Many in the cast deserve praise, especially Therese Diekhans as Volumnia, his ambitious, tough-as-nails mother, Shanelle Leonard as his loving but powerless wife, and David S. Klein and Gerald B. Browning as the conniving politicians who incite the rabble against Coriolanus.

Kent Cubbage’s lighting reinforces the tale, bathing the stage in blood red during battle scenes or harsh white light or key crowd scenes and personal encounter. And kudos to Nathan Wade for his sound.

Ralph Fiennes 2011 movie is due for wide distribution in the United States later this month. Reviews from film festivals and New York applaud it yet suggest it offers a slightly different take on some of the characters. It will be interesting to compare it with this splendid Seattle Shakespeare production.

Through January 29 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center (206-733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).

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