As our cab left the Atlanta Airport, my father and I were talking about The New American Shakespeare Tavern’s production of Coriolanus. But at the first mention of Shakespeare, our cab driver turned a little and said (In a very thick Nigerian accent) “Do you like Shakespeare, boy?” Of course I replied yes. He said that he had read 25 of Shakespeare’s plays abridged and Macbeth unabridged. He asked if this was my first time in Atlanta. I said yes and that we had come for 12 hours just to see Coriolanus. He asked if I had read Macbeth. I said that it was the first play I had ever read and I’d seen it twice. He asked me what if I knew what “Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight” meant. I said that it meant because Duncan was such a good man that seeing him dead in the chamber will destroy your vision. He said that that is true, but what about it would destroy your vision. I said that I didn’t know. He said the pools of blood on the ground caused such damage to the eyes that they were destroyed. His name is Bertram Ibekwe and he came from Nigeria to be a doctor, and was studying in between shifts. His daughter got into Yale and Harvard.
When we arrived we had a couple minutes to spare. We hung around the lobby, with a model of the Globe Theatre and bongo drums from a performance. When the doors opened, however, my father and I found that the American Shakespeare Tavern, as its name implies, is a unique space in which to see the Bards’ work. We entered a large room with a kitchen in the back, café tables in the center, balconies all around ¾ of the space and a stage with a smaller balcony but stairs in the front. We bought food. I ordered a ‘Kings Sandwich’ which was very tasty. My father had Sheppard’s pie, which was basically beef stew. Food could be purchased during intermission, and eaten all throughout the performance.
As a play, many critics and writers such as T.S. Eliot consider this to be Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. But many also don't even believe he really wrote it. There is much contoversy. Personally I believe he wrote it, but I don't think its one of his best plays either. It is a good play, with many interesting perspectves on politics: honor, self-interest, compromise, maternal love and tyranny. Also minor characters are more persuasive than the major. Menenus and Coriolanus's mother are great roles, with powerful lines. But Coriolanus himself is an all together weak character. And great plays need great leads.
When the play opened there were so many positive things I noticed in the first ten minutes that I can only name a few. The Meneus was extremely homely. He was type cast of course, but this didn’t make it less entertaining as he was bellowing support to Coriolanus and then just as emotionally devastated by his rejection. The two representatives (tribunes) of the people were great. Brutus showed a grain of regret but was always following Sicinius in needling Coriolanus. But Coriolanus himself wasn’t as good as the rest. He was NOT one dimensional. Usually this is a good thing but not with Coriolanus. He isn’t supposed to be conflicted. His role revolves around one thing: Honor is everything.