Julius Caesar

You think you've seen Julius Caesar? Think again. Yes, Chicago Shakespeare Theater's bold, modern-day production (closing March 24) has its share of surprises and risk, but there's a smaller, yet no less intense, production taking place up north.

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Babes With Blades, a company devoted to staging stories featuring women in the central, empowering roles (and often including an elaborate sword fight between the ladies, hence the company name) is taking on this classic tale of betrayal vs. honor. And through an all-female cast, they find new layers that surprise and awaken.

I've been a fan of Babes with Blades for a few years (the troupe's celebrating it's 15th season), and this production, deftly directed by Wyatt Kent, continues their trend of gripping the senses by focusing on the story and the internal struggle of the lead character. Plus, there's a late (though disappointingly brief) act 2 sword fight.

In a tight and talented ensemble cast, it would be a shame to call out any standout performance, but I will. Diana Coates is simply riveting as Antony, the slain Caeser's friend who delivers the famous speech ("Friends, Romans, countrymen") with repressed rage and disdain. It's a performance that makes me excited to see what's next for this articulate young artist.

"Julius Caesar," presnted by Babes with Blades, plays through April 20 at Raven Theatre's West Stage. More info here>

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