The Scottish play, the whole play, and nothing but the play



The Tragedie of Macbeth

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Charles E. Gerber

The New York Actors Ensemble in association with

The WorkShop Theater Company (

312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor (between 8th & 9th Aves.)

Equity Showcase (through January 21)

Review by David Mackler


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 as Duncan, and Kenneth Cavett was an exuberant and vivid Banquo. Mead’s Macbeth is obviously someone used to taking women at their word – although he’s a good soldier and respected by his men, he easily buys into the witches’ prophesies. Far more so than Banquo, who treats the predictions with a touch of humor, but Banquo doesn’t have a missus like Lady Macbeth (Susan Angelo) waiting at home for him. And what a woman Angelo makes of her – beautiful, slinky, sexy and determined, yet she is still surprised and delighted by the strength of how she intends to upgrade her standard of living. She knows she’s got to manipulate her man, and she knows how to do it. Sort of the inverse of Virginia Woolf’s George and Martha – all the manipulation, none of the yelling.


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 Scotland (sound design and score by Andy Cohen). Also with Gregory Adair, Benjamin Sumrall, Justin Gibbs, Jake Myers, Mike Finesilver, Michael James Anderson, Clare Paterson, and the very young Edward Wiley Fulton Myers in a very real and unmannered performance as Baby MacDuff.


Faithful rendering? Nice gimmick!


Box Score:

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

Copyright 2007 David Mackler


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