Roman around: A switcheroo for the RSC at the Park Avenue Armory

Last summer, our own David Cote reported on the estimable Royal Shakespeare Company's upcoming residency at the Park Avenue Armory, the centerpiece of 2011's Lincoln Center Festival, but wished for a little more surprise in the lineup. "While we're excited to see what Michael Boyd's troupe will whip up, the choice of plays themselves is hardly thrilling," he wrote. "Antony and Cleopatra is the only chestnut we haven't smelled in recent seasons; the rest, sorry, are overdone." Bad news, David: Lincoln Center announced today that RSC artistic director Michael Boyd has yanked his own staging of Antony and Cleopatra to make way for Lucy Bailey's account of its prequel, Julius Caesar. (Boyd's work will still be represented in As You Like It.)

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But maybe the news isn't bad after all. Antony and Cleopara was actually on a major New York stage not long ago; David was forgetting, or perhaps blocking from memory, Darko Tresnjak's spotty 2008 production for Theater for a New Audience. Granted, Julius Caesar has had major productions more recently: Denzel Washington played Brutus in a hit 2005 Broadway revival of the play, while Antony and Cleopatra last barged down the Main Stem in 1952; Shakepeare in the Park took a stab at Julius Caesar in 2000 (with Jeffrey Wright as Mark Antony), but hasn't mounted Anthony and Cleopatra since 1963. But the truth is that neither Roman tragedy has been done to death lately; they have been crowded aside not only by the usual suspects (Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, etc.) but by the fashionably late-period Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Although I would have been interested to see what the RSC did with the weird entanglements of Antony and Cleopatra, I'll happily lend Julius Caesar my ears.