Coriolanus Now in Its Final Weekend at Seattle Shakespeare
For a play considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, on par with Macbeth and Hamlet, Coriolanus is highly underperformed. Perhaps it’s because you can’t say the name of the play without “anus.” That certainly can’t help. Nonetheless, the play is back, running at the Seattle Shakespeare Company through the 29th, which you can soon compare to Ralph Fiennes’ film adaptation, opening February 3 at SIFF Uptown.
At Seattle Shakepeare, as credibly played by the hulking David Drummond, Coriolanus is a bold Roman general of furrowed brow and warrior might. But for being such a tough guy, Coriolanus is easily manipulated and guilt-tripped by his mama, smartly and deviously played by the delicious Therese Diekhans. (I’ve heard that compared to Seattle Shakespeare, the Fiennes version has their relationship more overtly Oedipal.)
The crux of the play is that Caius Martius–now named Coriolanus after winning a big battle at the city of Coriolae–is back from being a soldier, and returns to Rome, where he is pushed into office by his power-hungry mother, as well as political higher-ups, who want him to run for Consul. But the soldier doesn’t so easily become the politician, and Coriolanus struggles with his new identity. He doesn’t like all the posturing and fake humility that comes with the job, and his political opposition take advantage of that fact to sour his public image and drive him from Rome, only for Coriolanus to plot his revenge from afar. So it’s got its current political relevance, in that eternally timeless way that Shakespeare did so well.
Unfortunately, Seattle Shakespeare draws some unfortunate parallels between the plebeians of ancient Rome and Occupy Wall Street. The stage design is full of piles of rubble and bricks and walls full of dirty graffiti, while the Roman rabble are a pack of easily-duped sign-wielding backpack-carrying legwarmer-wearers. Can we call a moratorium on all such uses of the Occupy movement from this point forward? Whatever you think of the 99%, co-opting it in this way is just plain cheap.