Julius Caesar

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From l, Erica Peeples, Cynthia Beckert, Jake Suffian, Holiday Kinard, Antonio D. Charity, Vincent J. Isaac, and Daniel Ball in “Julius Caesar.”

Griot Theatre of the WestValleyexplodes onto the stage with their visceral and powerful inaugural production, Julius Caesar, a sexually and physically charged staging that upturns convention. The play features excellent acting and production work as it examines the manipulation and duplicity of politics for personal gain and glory.

This isn’t your father’s Julius Caesar, but a version influenced by Game of Thrones, dark, violent, and sensual. The production features nontraditional casting, creating a fresh, compelling take on the seasoned classic.

Director Malik B. El-Amin reimagines the production as an examination of a forceful and passionate woman plotting and carrying out an assassination of the world’s most powerful man. He brings dynamism and sexual tension to the proceedings, drawing fine performances from his cast.

Cynthia Beckert excels as the warrior Cassius, dominating, cunning, and fearless. Jake Suffian brings thoughtful, steady action to the concerned Brutus. Their nemesis, Mark Antony, is given determined, intelligent personality by Daniel Ball. Antonio D. Charity’s leonine Julius Caesar radiates confidence and pride. A few actors, however, have trouble speaking the speeches “trippingly on the tongue.”

Production work is first rate, bringing vivid color to the proceedings. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s postmodern, rich costumes blend medieval with Xena: Warrior Princess. Kis Knekt and Paul Sheargold’s elegant sets give gravitas and foreboding. Sound work creates feelings of danger, darkness, and despair.

Julius Caesar convincingly exudes passion and menace as it re-imagines William Shakespeare’s classic work.

Griot Theatre presents Julius Caesar Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. through Nov. 11 at Bethel Encino located at 17500 Burbank Blvd. in Encino. There is open captioning on Oct. 21, ASL interpretation on Oct. 27, and a talkback on Oct. 28.  The show is dark Oct. 19 and Nov. 2. Tickets cost $25, $15 for students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more. Buy tickets at plays411.com/juliuscaesar or call (323) 960-7740.

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