He looks like Donald Trump, with his fluffy hair, dark suit and tie hanging below the belt. He moves like Trump. He even has a wife with a Slavic accent.
And at the start of the third act, the actor playing Julius Caesar in New York City’s free summer Shakespeare in the Park festival is knifed to death on stage, blood staining his white shirt.
The decision to inject a Trump look-alike into the leading role in “Julius Caesar” is a provocative one, given both the famous assassination scene and a nude scene in the show.
Performances at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater began in late May, just days before comedian Kathy Griffin was widely condemned for posing for a photograph in which she gripped a bloodied rendering of Trump’s head.
Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director who also directed the play, said in a statement that “anyone seeing our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ will realize it in no way advocates violence towards anyone.”
Shakespeare’s play, and the New York production, he said, “make the opposite point: Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic methods pay a terrible price and destroy their Republic. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.”
“Julius Caesar” tells a fictionalized story of a powerful, popular Roman leader who is assassinated by senators who fear he is becoming a tyrant. It is set in ancient Rome, but many productions have costumed the characters in modern dress to give it a present-day connection.
The Public Theater warns spectators: “Please note: Julius Caesar contains the use of violence, nudity, live gunshot sounds, strobe, herbal cigarettes, haze, and fog.”
That includes Caesar, played by Gregg Henry, stepping naked from a bathtub.
In an online message on the Public Theater website, Eustis says Shakespeare’s work “is about how fragile democracy is. The institutions that we have grown up with … can be swept away in no time at all.”
The production runs through June 18.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.