Are you looking for a show with topless men and other hunky Romans wearing skirts? How about fabulous Egyptian babes wearing flashy clothes? California Shakespeare Company is not the advertising these costumes but they're still managing to fill their (tiny) house for a production of "Antony and Cleopatra."
The Roman Empire is in trouble and Marc Antony is in Alexandria caught up in an affair with Cleopatra. Summoned back to Rome by Octavius Caesar (the grandnephew of Julius), Antony fights various rebel factions while Cleo pines away.
The good news for Cleopatra is that Antony's wife has died; the bad news is that he has remarried, this time for political reasons and to Caesar's sister, Octavia. So begins Shakespeare's sort-of sequel to "Julius Caesar."
It's the Bard's second-longest play ("Hamlet" wins top honor), but one shouldn't be dismayed--the current production gallops along, coming in at just under three hours.
Officially, the play is a tragedy, with an ending that has much in common with "Romeo and Juliet." But along the way, there's a lot of comedy, much of it based on Cleopatra's mixed feelings toward Antony: She's upset that he's married, and then even more upset when he's not grieving sufficiently after his wife's death. Dazzled by love, she threatens to flay the messenger who tells her that Antony has remarried, then pays him to tell her how ugly Octavia is.
Among the more impressive actors are Ronald Rezac, a mainstay of the California Shakespeare Company and Ojai Shakespeare Festival, as the valiant, noble--and somewhat befuddled--Antony, and Elyse Ashton as Cleopatra. Denice Stradling and Jenna Greenberg appear as Cleopatra's attendants (Stradling as her confidante, Charmian), with Kelly Vincent as Antony's lieutenant, the cynical Enobarbus.
Allen Reidel plays the rebel Pompey, Christopher Gauntt is Caesar, and Alixe Francuch appears as Octavia. William Fisher directs with his usual clarity and economy--while the costumes are opulent, there's virtually no scenery except for a chair that suddenly and almost shockingly appears toward the end of the show. Jeff Wallach is credited with the choreography of a very amusing sequence in which Antony, Pompey and Enobarbus tap a keg (figuratively, at least) and walk like Egyptians.
* WHAT: "Antony and Cleopatra."
* WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays through March 26.
* WHERE: California Shakespeare Company Theater, 6685 Princeton Ave., Moorpark.
* HOW MUCH: $12; $10 for students and seniors.
* CALL: For reservations (mandatory; it's a small theater) or further information, call 498-3354 or 373-9243.