There were a handful of other Elizabethan dramas written about Julius Caesar, but Shakespeare's offers a more entertaining dramatization of Rome's political climate (which was as nasty and cutthroat as our own) and the aftermath of the emperor's murder. Principal among the assassins are Brutus (Jack Stehlin) and Cassius (Tom Groenwald), who are the head and talons of the conspiratorial mob. The curious thing about this play is that the focus is really Brutus, not Caesar, and Stehlin (who also directs) renders a superb performance, investing the character with equal parts cunning, glacial detachment and simple human fragility. Equally commanding are Groenwald's voluble, emotionally intense Cassius and Scott Sheldon's dignified and loyal Marc Antony. This is a lean, well managed production with the rest of the large cast turning in good performances in multiple roles. Stehlin's contemporary staging — which includes some attractive choreography by Jade Sealey — sacrifices none of the play's on-the-edge intensity. Kitty Rose's smattering of props gets the job done effectively, and her present-day costumes (mostly dark suits) are strangely appropriate and attractive. Noah Silverstein's faux panels of statuary and sculpture are subtly evocative of the period. New American Theatre Company, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (Oct. 21 perf, 7 p.m.); through Oct 21. (310) 701-0788,

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Sept. 15. Continues through Nov. 17, 2012

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