"Commanding, multilayered performance"

"In Shakespeare’s 'Antony and Cleopatra,' a Roman soldier speaks, famously, of the Egyptian queen’s 'infinite variety' as he tries to explain her hold on Marc Antony.

This attribute is likewise possessed, if not to infinite degree then certainly in abundance, by Paula Plum, whose commanding, multilayered performance as Cleopatra is reason enough to see the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s fine production of 'Antony and Cleopatra.’

In SpeakEasy Stage Company’s 'The Savannah Disputation' in 2009, Plum virtually shrank into the furniture as a mousy, submissive Catholic who was dominated by her strong-willed sister and desperate for the approval of the local priest. Then she followed up last year in SpeakEasy’s 'Body Awareness' with a sensitive portrayal of a woman involved in a long-term relationship with another woman but tempted by a charismatic male photographer who helped her overcome inhibitions about her own body.

It probably goes without saying that Plum’s Cleopatra suffers from no such insecurities or inhibitions — about her sexuality or anything else. While supremely confident in her power to enthrall (grandly extending her hand to a messenger, she notes that it is 'a hand that kings have lipped, and trembled kissing'), this Cleopatra burns not just with sensuality but with smarts. Even when she is not prowling the stage of the renovated Modern Theatre like an out-of-time Maggie the Cat and is simply in languid repose, Plum’s face subtly registers the wheels-within-wheels workings of the queen’s mind.

Her combination of sex appeal and luminous intelligence makes it entirely understandable that Antony would risk his stature and power to remain in her orbit."

-Don Aucoin

Tony Howell

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