The light thickens

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jeff Sult
Expanded Arts
Non union production (closed)
Review by David Mackler

With a cast of one man and seven women, Macbeth would not, perhaps, be what you would choose to tackle. While it was a gimmick, this casting and some good acting gave the play some unexpected vigor. Yet it also shifted the focus, leaving Mac and his Lady a little high and dry.

Director Jeff Sult also adapted the already short play to a running time of about 85 minutes. Precious little of this time was wasted on the witches - their bits were blended into various scenes, but the balance seemed off without them. Otherwise, as usual, Macbeth (Gilberto Ron) was scared and thrilled by his good luck. His Lady (Victoria Malvagno), though, played it with definite resonances of I'll-get-him-power-so-I-can-have power, and Ron appeared to need all the pushing he could get. It's not that he had no backbone, but he did seem to lack a purpose. And Lady M's "Unsex me here"? Not a chance. She would be using every bit of her guile to make him get her what she wants-like the wife of a mediocre salesman, constantly entreating her lummox to sell more, more. Malvagno would make a great Kate.

But the best of this production came from intermittent directorial peaks and extraordinarily good playing by some others in the cast. When Lisa Reff appeared as Duncan, she was riveting, even while the effect was strictly theatrical. The murder of Banquo and the killing of Lady Macduff and her son were also scenes that had power above much of the rest. Malcolm (Erin Boyle), Macduff (Rachel Scott), and Ross (Susannah Melone) revived any flagging interest by beautifully conveying sense, meaning, and power when Macduff learned of his family's fate. Macbeth and his Lady got their scenes too, first as they washed their hands to remove the blood, showing a stronger bond at that point than anywhere else. (For while there was much sound and fury between them, it was oddly passionless.) And in a good touch, the play ended not with Malcolm proclaiming order and peace, but with a haunting replay of Macbeth's early scene with his Lady - "Duncan comes here tonight."

As the murderers, Reff and Melone were simpleminded yet chilling, and Scott's Lady Macduff was as potent as her Macduff - in fact, her playing both packed a punch after the Lady's murder. Pia Caro was a steadfast and honorable Banquo, truly damning in death, and Erin Boyle had the right mien for Fleance and young Macduff, in addition to her Malcolm.

In this black box there was no set, but Ji-Youn Chang's provocative lighting was nearly always able to define the theatre's impossible, bowling-alley-shaped space. Costumes (Patricio A. Cahue) were mostly black, with the occasional tartan to remind why this is called the Scottish play. (Also with Gloria Gonzalez.)
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 David Mackler