The Witching Hour


by William Shakespeare
Directed by Alexa Kelly
Pulse Ensemble Theater
432 W. 42nd St. (279-4200)
Equity showcase (closes September 17)
Review by David Mackler

The witches (Pamela Anne Wild, Danielle Stilli, and Jayne Corey) ran the show in the Pulse Theater's Macbeth, make no mistake about it. From their first appearance to the coda where they repeat "When shall we three meet again?" it is clear that the story of Macbeth's downfall is just another day's mischief to them. And more's the pity the play has so few women's parts in it, because in this production, the women came off far better than the men.

Macbeth (Brian Richardson) and his Lady (Natalie Wilder) were quite the odd couple (was it an arranged marriage?), but they also seemed to be in different plays. Richardson was wide-eyed and hysterical, leaving little room for any character progression, and this disconnected him from others on stage, as well as in the audience. Meanwhile, Wilder, although diminutive, was not small. Full-lunged and clear-voiced, when she called on the spirits to unsex her it was a real incantation (nothing metaphorical here) and the demons would be fools to stand in her way.

Even Seyton, a supporting character if there ever was one, played here as a woman in a wimple (Molly Harrington), was more delineated than the men, who tended to be interchangeable. Malcolm came off best, because Aaron J. Fill seemed to be thinking his way through his dilemmas; and Banquo (Mark Bogosian) was recognizable because of his ever-present grin - until, of course, you-know-what happens. But while Lenox, Ross, and Angus (Nicole Godino, Jamie Forehand, and Nathan M. White) may be mistaken for one another, it does great harm to the play if Macduff (Jim Wisniewski) is included in that company.

There was much inventive direction, which often gave additional meaning to scenes - an arm wrestle between Macbeth and Fleance (Chris Beagle) gave substance to the witch's earlier prophecy; or when the witches showed up as the murderers. While there were exciting highs - the witches (again!) wearing white masks on the backs of their heads yet communicating meaning through physical performances - too frequently time hung heavy.

This might have been an unintended consequence of how the characters were costumed (by Terry Leong). Sumptuous medievalish clothing was

combined with long wigs that seemed to be an amalgam of dreadlocks and skeins of yarn. (What was intended was difficult to assess - perhaps a reference to "sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care"?) This outdoor production was necessarily miked so it could be heard over the noise of traffic (sound uncredited), but that led to occasional character dislocation. Throughout there was an excellent Bernard Herrmann-like score by Aaron Mendez.

But the witches, who seemed to operate out of time (cackling like Halloween witches while dressed in Victorian funeral clothing, or wearing bloody white butcher's aprons), were the driving force. They delighted in their calling, and it's always nice to see people enjoy their work.

Also with Tom Jasorka, Jonas Wadler, Gail Sanders, Mark Vaughn, Amanda Dubois. Simple set design by Rubèn Arana-Downs; lighting by Herrick Goldman; fight choreography by Al Foote III.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 David Mackler