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'Coriolanus' Provides a Modern Political Morality Tale

Six months after the presidential and general election, and in the midst of Washington, D.C.’s special election season, “Coriolanus” is an extraordinarily astute reflection on the modern political landscape.

Also, even though the world Muse and his actors create is a dark, bloody, political one, and one dominated by men, there is one incredibly powerful woman in the mix.

Volumnia is Coriolanus’ mother and does not suffer foolish men or whimpering women. She is played with a certain explosive finesse by Diane L’Aquila and is no one you’d like to have real emotions around. Still, her son loves and respects her.

She is his only true adviser in this world of political men. She is, in the end, the first person who can reach her son through his haze of vengefulness.

This is not one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, but it is one of the most political, and it feels incredibly modern. It also was adapted into a feature film in 2011 by Ralph Fiennes. That, and the current STC run, provides this relatively obscure play with exposure it doesn’t typically get.

And against a backdrop of America’s great political city, and against the reality of our nation’s economic uncertainty and now too-familiar moments of collective terror, the audience can’t help but recognize some of our own on the stage. Perhaps, even for a moment, each of us will relate to nearly every character on stage.

The naked ambition of Coriolanus, his mother, the tribunes and, even Coriolanus’ young son is, at times, uncomfortable to watch, though the discomfort contributes to a wildly engaging and entertaining night at the theater.

This is not a perfect production, but it is completely appropriate to this time and this place.

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