The urge to add a personal stamp to something as well known as Macbeth is often irresistible, and sometimes a gimmick is just a gimmick. It’s not always the disaster implied by producer David M. Mead in his program note, but Mead, who also plays Macbeth in the New York Actors Ensemble production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedie of Macbeth, also makes a good point that a ‘faithful rendering’ will refocus the audience on what really is a terrific play.
So the opening slow motion battle on the Stonehenge-like set
is a flurry of kilts and chain mail armor (costumes by Amy Kitzhaber). Dirt, blood, violent deaths, and some vivid
characterizations make this a Macbeth
to be reckoned with, especially knowing what’s going to happen to some of these
guys. Noah Keen was solid and real
Under Charles E. Gerber’s direction, small, subtle touches made big impressions – Macbeth’s smile of self-satisfaction at his investiture, as if it was something he deserved and had achieved himself; the way he’s clearly looking out for himself as Banquo departs. In fact, this Macbeth doesn’t relate all that well to people. Rather, it’s in his speeches to the audience that he makes a connection, and his wants and needs are clearest. Before the banquet Macbeth is more sure of himself than his wife is of herself, and after his visions of Banquo her distress when she asks the guests to leave is a clear precursor to her own breakdown. In spite of her earlier show of strength, she is undone because she cannot control the events she set in motion. The creepiest moment of the play was silent – the smothering of MacDuff’s baby, done in silhouette.
And all this without setting the events in the 22nd century, having the characters sip tea, or invoking the Mafia. There were also strong performances by Mick Bleyer as Malcolm, E. Brook Fulton as Lady MacDuff, and Letty Ferrer, Audrey Maeve Hager and Alexandra Devin as the Weyward Sisters. And since the script is unedited, Hecate was there as well in a fine and funny cameo by Leanne Littlestone.
In spite of an announced lighting glitch, moods were well
set by Carrie Yacono’s design, and
continual yet underplayed sound effects (and bagpipes) kept the play grounded
in the forests and fields of
Faithful rendering? Nice gimmick!
Copyright 2007 David Mackler
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