Published 9:46 am Thursday, July 17, 2014

Much of the tension in "Coriolanus" stems from the evolving relationship between the title character (Chaz Bratton) and Tullus Audfidius (Scott Lange). (Photo Submitted by Kat Hermes)

Much of the tension in “Coriolanus” stems from the evolving relationship between the title character (Chaz Bratton) and Tullus Audfidius (Scott Lange). (Photo Submitted by Kat Hermes)

Pigeon Creek Company does Shakespeare like audiences have never seen him before

ST. JOSEPH — “To be, or not to be? That is the question.”

Who hasn’t heard these familiar words from Hamlet’s soliloquy?

Over the past 450 years, the Bard’s plots and characters have seeped into popular culture to the point that pretty much anyone can quote a line or two of Shakespeare.

Even kids as young as 3 or 4 can recite the basic plot of “Romeo and Juliet,” having been exposed to it in “Gnomeo and Juliet” or some other (albeit sanitized) rendition of Shakespeare’s great work.

With that kind of reputation preceding his plays, it can be hard for a theater company to find one that an audience can come to without certain expectations, but that is exactly what the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company has done with their new production of “Coriolanus.”

“It’s not a play that people are very familiar with,” said Katherine Mayberry, executive director of the company and producer of the production. “It’s a play that most people can come to fresh and not necessarily know what the outcome will be.”

As one of Shakespeare’s Roman tragedies, “Coriolanus” tells the story of Roman warrior Caius Martius Coriolanus, played by Chaz Bratton. Struggling to gain the support of the Roman populace, Coriolanus forms an unlikely alliance with his greatest military rival, the Volscian general Tullus Aufidius, played by Scott Lange.

As their characters go from mortal enemies to close co-conspirators, the off-stage friendship of the two main actors’ most certainly enhances the tensions that the audience witnesses.

“Working with Chaz has been good. He is one of my best friends,” explained Lange. “‘Coriolanus’ is one of those plays where, throughout the entire play, the characters talk about each other, but they don’t spend a lot of time on stage together, so it’s been great to go to rehearsals and see his work.”

Pigeon Creek’s production also features actors Kathleen Bode, Antonio Copeland, Kat Hermes, Sean Kelley, Owen McIntee, Sarah Tryon, Kate Tubbs, Kyle Westmaas and Scott Wright.

Also playing a critical part in this production of the play are the audience members themselves, drawn into the roles of members of the Roman populace from whom Coriolanus seeks support.

“This production really makes good use of the audience. There is a lot of intrigue over who will have political control, and many of the speeches are directed to the audience as though they are the people of Rome,” Mayberry explained. “The Box Factory is a great venue for a play like this.”

The performance is further enhanced by the orientation of the production’s guest director, Dennis Henry.

“‘Coriolanus’ is the pet project of the director, Dennis Henry, who we brought in to work with us. He was previously an actor with the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia, and that company does something similar to what we do,” said Mayberry, referring to their shared preference of staging plays using performance conditions similar to those of Shakespeare’s own time period.

“This was my first time working with Dennis, and it was really great,” Lange said. “As a company, it’s always really good to bring in someone with new ideas and a fresh way of seeing things. And, he fit in really well with the personality of our company. It was a great experience.”

Pigeon Creek’s performance of “Coriolanus” is sure to bring that same great experience to audience members at the Box Factory.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are available in advance at www.boxfactoryforthearts.org, by phone at (269) 983-3688, or at the door. Wine and light refreshments will be available for purchase at this event, and Special VIP tickets of $15 per person with prepaid reservations, which include a drink ticket, are available for this event. General admission tickets are $10, with senior and student tickets available for $8.