When mounting a production of a Shakespearean warhorse like Macbeth, directors often rely on modernization as the way to distinguish their production from the myriad renditions that have gone before it. Joanne Zipay showed more inventiveness in putting her unique stamp on the play, opting for innovative nuances in characters' expression and appearance. Zipay made Lady Macduff pregnant, which intensified the horror of the scene in which she and her children are massacred. And she had Macbeth deliver the ``tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow'' soliloquy in anger as opposed to ruefulness.
Macbeth's intonation in that monologue was part of a multifaceted portrayal by Neil Larson, who evolved from a lovestruck pussycat to a deranged tyrant. In the beginning, Larson's Macbeth was clearly just following orders from the wife he adored, but by the time he became king he was ferociously drunk with power. Larson's imposing figure and expressive face contributed to a strong performance. As Lady Macbeth, Kate Konigisor was outstanding in the sleepwalking scene but not sinister enough when she first formulates plans to kill Duncan. Kevin Elden gave a respectable performance as Macduff and was especially poignant when Macduff learns of his family's murder. These three actors were the standouts in a cast with little experience on the New York stage. Some supporting actors lacked polish.
They did not detract, however, from an auspicious production of this familiar play. The emotional tone was underscored by rich technical details, including an atmospheric percussion score and a persistent darkness and mistiness on stage. The excellent production qualities were particularly effective in the scene where the ghost of Banquo (John Carroll) haunts Macbeth at a banquet. Between Carroll's deliberate movements and a fluorescent spotlight that seemed to be emanating from him rather than shining on him, Banquo had a remarkably ghostly semblance. Another moment that was memorable in its originality was when Macduff, about to kill Macbeth, proclaims that he had been ``from his mother's womb untimely ripped.'' From offstage was heard the laughter of the three witches, who had promised Macbeth that ``none of woman born shall harm'' him.
Although superstitious theatre folk consider Macbeth a jinx, the Scottish play helps establish the Judith Shakespeare Company as a promising new troupe with the talent and integrity to fulfill its ideals. This second full-scale production by the company demonstrated a firm command of classical theatre and a focus on women's roles--the main points in its statement of purpose. The multiethnic cast featured five women in parts that were written for men. (Costumes, Thomas Augustine; lighting/special effects, Jason Ardizzone, Carolyn Sarkis; percussionist/composer, Ronny Gotler.)
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri
Return to Home Page