20th-century Scot


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Beverly Bullock
Love Creek Productions
Sargent Theatre/American Theater of Actors
314 West 54th St. (769-7973)
Equity showcase (closes September 15)
Review by David Mackler

Macbeth is a sturdy play. It can stand up to being set in various locales and time periods and subjected to sexual politics and political reinterpretations. (Check the oobr Archives for examples.) But even a modest production ought not to be underlit. Love Creek's version of the Scottish play had a number of things going for it, but a good lighting design was not one of them. If there's a point to be made by putting the witches in crow masks, it would have been helpful to see that's what was covering their faces without the audience having to squint and guess. Then, when they drop their hoods and masks and the beaked sisters are revealed as slinky seductresses, the shift from one kind of predatory bird to another would have been more potent.

This Macbeth (Geoffrey Dawe) was an ordinary guy -- not terribly dynamic but easily corruptible. His pal Banquo (Jed Dickson), was a really nice guy -- smart and friendly, a good head on his shoulders. Lady Macbeth, though (Kirsten Walsh), had enough drive for the whole kingdom, and you wouldn't want to get in her way. Given the modernish setting, it was as if Leona Helmsley were married to Michael Bloomberg -- "little people pay taxes" comes out as "why have you brought the daggers from the place?" and a quixotic run for mayor becomes "if it were done when 'tis done..." But whether it was a directorial choice or the dampening of the dark, it was the evil Lady M. who lit pretty much the only sparks on stage. Macbeth doesn't have to be an overwrought melodrama, but this one could have used more of Walsh's juice and fury.

This Scotland had a modern essence to it, with soldiers in gray shirts, black pants, and boots. Ross (Holland Haiis) and Donalbain (Kelly Barrett) were played by (and as) women, with Ross in sensible suits and Donalbain in miniskirts. Lady Macbeth's rich-colored gowns (pretty much the only color in a sea of soldier-black) and her extravagant jewels were part of her character -- they were cold, just like her. Hecate (Rachel Marcus) too had lots of fire and style (and effective lighting!) but her scenes didn't feel terribly germane. In contrast, Matthew Klan's Macduff was rather low key -- his response to Duncan's death was muted, but his investment in overthrowing Macbeth took on pertinence after his wife and daughter's murder. As the doomed wife, Carol T. Biaggi enjoyed sharing the stage with Alexis Biaggi as her child, but it was the previous scene that set up the payoff -- Ross (a woman, remember?) drinking tea with Lady Macduff, begging her to flee. Dawe's Macbeth did generate some dynamism when he railed about having murdered Duncan so that Banquo's kids will be kings, and again at the end when the jig is up, but the power was intermittent.

What could have been was illustrated in the brief scene between Lennox (Ross A. McIntyre) and Caithness (JP Lopez), and their commentary on current events. Just standing there talking, sipping highballs, with Lennox in loud pants, their moment was totally unforced, their conversation surprisingly, totally, absorbing. A parade of Banquos at the banquet scene was very effective (McIntyre also did a scene-stealing bit at the banquet), as was Jon Oak as the doctor observing Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking, and Bob Manus as an evil-looking Seyton skulking about. Seyward (Nicholas Stannard) was played as a cross between Montgomery and MacArthur.

The castle setting was unprepossessing, but still, it's one thing to set the play in the dark because most of it takes place at night, and another to have it under-illuminated (light design by Daniel Anthony). A good sounding "Double, double" scene was too dark -- but what was visible in the flashes of lightning looked impressive.

Also with Kristen Hammer, Marguerite Moray, Vanessa Elder, Anthony Allutto, Josette Galtieri, and Omar Prince as a Malcolm Scotland wouldn't be ashamed to have as king. (Design by Bullock.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting: 0/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler