Character Sketches

The Disaffected Star. As an actor, bloody tired of doing this year after year after year in shabby theaters for low to no pay. As a character, capable and charismatic, and a classic example of what not to do with an extraordinary amount of talent. Brilliant, but self-indulgent, Antony all too often sets his pleasures and his obsession with Cleopatra above duty and pragmatism. An unmistakably great, deeply flawed soul.
The Aging Diva. As an actress, Cleopatra is an old hand in the theater. When she was young, she played Ophelia and Desdemona. As she aged, she began to take on roles like Tamora and Lady Macbeth. She is and always has been the star. And like Antony, she's getting tired of the act. As a character, Cleopatra is a study in contrasts, half-goddess, half-guttersnipe, with a ferocious temper, an insatiable lust for life, and a power and charisma that either draw men to her, or make them hate her.
The Stage Manager. As Stage Manager, Octavius is a bit high- strung, easily upset by things that go wrong. As the fabric of reality steadily unravels, Octavius is the one trying, and failing, to hold everything together. The character of Octavius stands out in stark contrast. Cold. Controlling. Manipulative. A young man who does not make or tolerate mistakes.
The Aging Ingenue. Little younger than Cleopatra, the actress playing Octavia is far prettier, but is beginning to age out of the ingenue roles her fragile beauty has always landed her in. As a character, Octavia is proper, reserved, self-contained, the silent madonna to Cleopatra's flamboyant whore. Sister of Octavius and wife of Antony, she begins as a pawn between them, and eventually finds the power to assert herself and abandon the faithless Antony.
The Lazy Actor. Antony's best friend and most trusted lieutenant, a cynic by nature. He has been the one to see Antony's relationship with Cleopatra more closely than anyone, and his cynicism occasionally wars with a genuine admiration. Enobarbus betrays Antony in the end, and comes to regret it deeply enough to commit suicide over it.
The Young, Shy Actor. Another of Antony's lieutenants, the only one who remains faithful to the end. He commits suicide in what might just be the most moving moment of the play, in order to avoid killing Antony. As an actor, he'd be a delight to have along on a national tour, because he'd put up with adverse conditions and long hours without complaint.
The Veteran Actor. The actor playing Agrippa has, in his day, played a number of the great roles. He's been through Henry V and Hamlet, he's playing Lear in another production. He's been at this for decades, and like the character he portrays, he's a quiet, contemplative, steadying influence on the chaos. Agrippa is a genuinely good man, as character or actor.
The Drama Queen. Philo has entirely rotten luck. He's abused by both Cleopatra and Antony. He defects to Octavius, who treats him better. In the end, he manages to be a witness to the aftermath of Cleopatra and Antony's suicides, and he's one of the few actors left alive onstage to piece it all together after the fact. As an actor, he's classically high maintenance, the one to constantly demand better dressing rooms and working conditions.
The Ambitious Actor. He should have been the one playing the lead. (Damn it.) As actor or character, Maecenas is something of a backbiter, with all of Enobarbus' cynicism thrown into the mix. His barbs, Draco Malfoy style, often come in the form of questions. As an actor, he's the sort who's tremendous fun at cast parties, always the one to start up the kissing-and-strip- Apples-to-Apples games, and a delight to gossip with, until you remember that he's undoubtedly gossiping just as viciously about you.
The Helpful Actor. The actor taking on the roles of Lepidus and the Clown is one of those wonderful actors who delights in being able to play absolutely anything. Equally well-versed in tragedy and comedy, always there at hand with exactly the prop or costume piece everyone else needs, he is the actor to come the most deeply unglued when everything unravels at the end of the play. As characters, Lepidus is a politician, smooth, polished and a bit feckless, too quick to change his mind to reflect the prevailing opinion of stronger parties. The Clown has a marvelous Theater of the Absurd scene at the end of the play, in which he brings Cleopatra the asp with which she is to commit suicide, and angles for a tip during what should be a heavy dramatic moment.
The Costumer/The Comedienne. The other creator of beauty and guardian at the gates of artifice is Charmian, the Costumer. Frank, outspoken and loyal to the bone, she freely gives Cleopatra her honest advice, teasing her as no one else would dare to do, supporting her and eventually dying beside her and Iras. As an actress, she's always been the lead in the comedies, with a gift for taking unpromising text and making it hysterically funny. In her suicide, though, we see a different side to her, a power and regality that would have lent itself brilliantly to any tragic queen.
The Makeup Artist. Iras is one of the creators of beauty, a guardian at the gate of artifice and the theatrical. She transforms Cleopatra into a temptress through her skill with a brush. As character, Iras is absolutely loyal to her mistress, and a splendid actress in her own right, one who can summon laughter, tears or rage at the drop of a hat, and all in Cleopatra's service.