It’s 44 BC, a bit before the ides of March, and Roman citizens are in the streets singing a cheeky ode to life in the Seven Hills — to the tune of Weezer’s “Beverly Hills.”
Shot through with moral ambiguity, Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” provides the troupe with particularly meaty — and ever-topical — material. The strongman title character is loved by the crowd but feared by the elite. Vowing to take him down, conspirators claim they are acting to save the republic from a dictator. Orations function like social media, swaying the populace into opposing camps. The bracing irony of L.A. rock band Weezer cleverly complements the tale.
“Julius Weezer” is more serious than most Troubie shows, but not to worry: You’ll laugh plenty.
Company leader Matt Walker adapted and directed the piece, in which Shakespeare’s immortal lines get name-checked amid one-liners, topical references and lots of clown-like comedy. Performing as the conspirator Cassius, Walker also delivers some of the more Rivers Cuomo-like vocals. A band of five, led by Derick Finely, wraps the material in a thrum of bass and guitar.
Think: togas, pancake makeup, amusingly bad, bowl-cut wigs — and a cast of 13 creating brainy mayhem.
Rick Batalla, a Troubie favorite, makes hay of his role as a servant named Lucius. “It’s pronounced ‘luscious,’” he announces — and thereafter has a field day embodying that adjective. Beth Kennedy, another fave, is Caesar’s premonition-haunted drama queen of a wife. Given a Cher-like pile of curly black hair and a dramatic gown, she, naturally, slips into a riff on “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” Matt Merchant’s Mark Antony is a strapping, strutting BMOC who, in a wry bit of interpolation, is already shacked up with Cleopatra.
Also on hand are such regulars as Rob Nagle, Joseph Leo Bwarie and Morgan Rusler, as well as newcomers Andy Robinson and Victoria Hoffman.
Tragedy and comedy zanily commingle when Robinson’s Caesar heads to a Senate session dressed in a wrap-around cloak-sweater-chenille bedspread. He soon finds himself encircled by dagger-armed conspirators, who pull red bungee cords from the cloak — his spouting wounds — while everyone sings Weezer’s “Undone — The Sweater Song.” That, in a nutshell, is the Troubies.
Where: El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Info: (866) 811-4111, elportaltheatre.com
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes