The Independent Shakespeare Co. is an innovative young company featuring impeccably trained actors from the U.S., England and Ireland. The gifted ensemble have created an entirely text- and actor-driven production, with all parts played by the seven-member cast. The company's goal is to leave as much to the audience's imagination as possible by avoiding the trappings of modern stagecraft and giving Shakespeare's text their full attention. Shakespeare's words take on a richness seldom experienced by audiences, inviting them to share in a rare intimacy that most actors would rather keep to themselves - and the audience felt honored indeed. With no directing credit listed, it can only be assumed that the close-knit company all took part in the evolution of the piece.
The huge, bare stage of the Present Company gave the actors plenty of space to run, dance and fill the stage with some brilliant swordplay. Fight choreographer Roy Guill's fearless, athletic staging was breathtaking. Simple but flattering lights (uncredited) enhanced with candles brought an immediacy to the bloody doings. Drums, chimes, and a few primitive instruments completed the ambience. The basic costumes - of an indeterminate time period - were crafted of materials ranging from rough burlap to a shiny satin in mostly blacks, browns and grays.
When not in a scene, the actors sat on stools at the back of the stage. With the exception of the actor playing Macbeth, everyone had several roles to perform, and even the tiny roles were fiercely individual flesh and blood creations. Any theatregoer who craves a deeper understanding of Shakespeare, and any actors who even think they want to take on the challenges the master offers, should make seeing this production a priority.
David Melville was a brilliantly taut Macbeth. Handsome and sensual, his performance pulsated with a tightly controlled energy, electrifying the audience. Melissa Chalsma looked like a fragile Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia, but her Lady Macbeth exploded with passion, bringing life and deep understanding to every word. The sexual tension between these two was undeniable. In a second, smaller role as Macduff's young son, Chalsma radiated a gentle innocence, making the child's murder even more horrific than usual.
Kelly Aucoin was an athletic, sensual Macduff, commanding
in his swordplay, and heartbreaking in his grief after the murder
of his family. Carole Healey played five roles, the most
compelling of which was the doomed Lady Macduff. Moving effortlessly
from character to character, with a flick of a cape or doff of
a hat, her chameleon-like presence pushed the energy level up
a few notches every time she appeared. John Keating was
powerful and affecting as Banquo, and a magnetic presence in the
role of Ross. Petite dynamo Carine Montbertrand's dramatic
arsenal ranged from the adorable young prince Malcolm to a sinister
witch and unsavory murderer. John Thomas Waite was a noble,
kindly presence as the unfortunate Duncan, and metamorphosed into
a sleazy murderer, as well as a profoundly disturbing Weird Sister.
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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern