Antony & Cleopatra
7 pm most Thursdays-Saturdays through July 26. For full schedule, visit portlandactors.com, Friday July 18 | Free
Antony and Cleopatra
is the summer blockbuster of Shakespeare plays, with sweeping battle scenes, star-crossed romance and an epic three-hour runtime. It’s great for the stage, but doesn’t seem like the best fit for the low budget and family audience of a Shakespeare-in-the-park production. All the more impressive, then, that Portland Actors Ensemble manages to convey most of the play’s emotional heft and cinematic scope within the confines of Laurelhurst Park. Director Elizabeth Huffman places the audience on either side of a strip of carpet, with impressively decorated platforms on each side representing the play’s warring factions: The Roman side is rendered in gray and red, and the Egyptian half is speckled with gold hieroglyphics. The production also includes live Middle Eastern-tinged music in its key dramatic scenes, resulting in a score that’s more tasteful than that of most actual blockbusters. All of these trappings are welcome, but the key to successful Shakespeare will always be the acting, and here, too, the company mostly delivers. Matt DiBasio is a loud, bombastic Antony, but as much as he tries to command the stage, the show belongs to Andrea White. As Cleopatra, she growls, cries and regally orates her way through a performance that would be epic in any setting.