(Teachout’s article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 8/26)
The modern-dress “Julius Caesar” that Orson Welles brought to Broadway in 1937 continues to cast a long shadow. By turning the play into a contemporary parable of fascism on the march, Welles raised the curtain on the high-concept production style that now dominates Shakespeare staging throughout the world. I don’t know whether Amanda Dehnert had Welles in mind when she created her own modern-dress version of “Julius Caesar” for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but it’s very much in the tradition of that legendary production, albeit with a few postmodern frills, foremost among them the casting of a woman actor, Vilma Silva, in the title role. It is also the best “Julius Caesar” I’ve ever seen, a stark parable of good intentions run amok that has the attention-grabbing power of a hand grenade lobbed into a crowded room.