By William Shakespeare
Directed by Mary Tarochione
Native Aliens Theatre Collective
The Fourth Street Theatre
83 E. 4th St. (726-8891)
Equity showcase (closes August 7)
Review by David Mackler

God bless the plays of William Shakespeare! They can stand up to anything. As conceived and directed byMary Tarochione, Native Aliens' version of Macbeth was way out there, but when it worked (about two-thirds of the time) it illuminated in new and surprising ways.

Setting the story in the business world was a terrific idea - Duncan (Igor Goldin) was a CEO; Macbeth (Mike McGowan), who's on his way up the corporate ladder, spoke his thoughts into a micro-recorder; lower-level executives kissed up to their superiors and tried to act like they hadn't been ignored; the power-hungry spouse connived ways to increase hubby's authority. Here said spouse was a man, known as Garrick Macbeth (Scott Gilmore), an interesting and not unworkable twist. Banquo (Helen Bessette) and Macduff (Karen Oberlin) were changed to women, an interesting but less workable approach.

Because with twisting gender, language is also tweaked. When Duncan refers to Garrick as his "hostess," it can be taken as a kind of corporate homophobic slight. Banquo could indeed be foretold as the "mother of many kings." But with Macduff and her wife (Karen Greatti), things became stickier, and even with changing pronouns, not altogether coherent. Besides, when the final slaughters commenced, the corporate metaphor broke down anyway. (How about Macbeth set in the Mafia? Done, and done again.) But Tarochione deserved kudos for her audacity, and for what did work here.

The production looked terrific, with great costuming by Jeff Seabaugh (Banquo in power-red, the witches' fun wigs), a striking set (although the columns sometimes obscured the actors), effective lighting (both by Chris Cargill), and excellent sound effects. The Shakespearean poetry came more trippingly from some tongues than others - Gilmore, with possibly the hardest task, made Lady Macbeth's lines understandable, accessible, and possible. McGowan could have used more shading - it's not likely Macbeth would be going all out, all the time. Oberlin made for a very Hillaryesqe Macduff, so strong and sympathetic that it was a shame she didn't take over the corporation instead of Malcolm (Craig Skelton), who made less of his chances. Yet when Macduff and Malcolm discussed the ways of the world and the uses of power, the director used sex to bring completely unexpected meaning to their dialogue, showcasing, in an attempted seduction, the weaknesses and strengths of the characters. Kermit Medsker had good moments as some of his characters; Peter Herrick, David Leventhal, Greatti, and particularly Goldin were very good in their variety of roles; Herb Ouellette was a sympathetic Rosse and Bessette a stalwart Banquo.

But best of all were the three witches (Rebecca Kendall, Nancy Rogers, Jodi Smith). Here they were office workers, the lowest rungs on the ladder, the ones who know all the gossip, the ones who actually run things. The play's first line, "When shall we three meet again?" was delivered by Kendall, heavy on the New York accent, as if they were just coming back from lunch. They were a delight each time they appeared. Who knew Macbeth could be so funny?

The main star here (besides Shakespeare, of course), was the director, who staged "Is this a dagger" as a marijuana -induced fantasy; who made the doctor observing "out, out, damned spot" a psychiatrist, complete with accent. No, it didn't all work. But Will isn't rolling over in his grave either.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 David Mackler