Dagger of the mind


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jeff Berry
The Deptford Players
CAP 21 Theatre
15 West 28th St. (666-6509/www.deptfordplayers.org)
Equity showcase (closes May 11)
Review by David Mackler

Deptford Players billed its production of The Tragedie of Macbeth (to give the play its full title) as presented in its entirety, uncut, and in the time and place in which the playwright set the action. Well, that wasn't completely true, and the small liberties that director Jeff Berry allowed were some of the sharpest parts of the evening. This was an uncommonly well-spoken Macbeth -- the plot was extremely clear (although poor Lenox, Menteth, Angus, and Cathness did sort of blend together, maybe it's the playwright's fault) and the actors got every drop of juice out of their lines. Still, it had the aura of an Illustrated Classic, somewhat stodgy and academic.

Except for the witches. They were led by the fine Stephanie Stone, who was crisp in each action, and funny as well. Julie S. Halpern clearly enjoyed her witchiness, and Catherine Ho used her body and her tongue sharply, and to great effect. They were even quite effective as various attendants, servants, and murderers, still dressed in their diaphanous green tunics over bodysuits with graphic designs, the high point of Jackie Stone's costumes. But it was these instances, where strict fidelity was ignored, that were the freshest parts of the production.

Which is not to slight any of the other actors. It was clear they knew exactly what they were saying (no phonetic memorization here), and each spoke so crisply that just to listen was a great pleasure. But just as it's not necessary to gussy up Shakespeare (transsexual dwarves singing the Birnham Wood Polka, anyone?), a director's vision is not uncalled for. Which is why the witches were so welcome.

So, for that matter, was the stalwart Macbeth of Thomas McCann. He and his Lady (Lorree True), being slightly older than usual, gave an aura of a businessman being passed over for promotions until now, and his wife is going to grasp this, her last chance to be the wife of a somebody, even if it means murder. Her "Had he not resembled my father as he slept I had done't" leapt out so strongly it seemed a pity not to explore it further. Brennan Roberts's Banquo was honest, open, and clear, and Eric Thorne's Macduff was a terrifically strong presence, spoken and acted with his whole self (he even wore his costume regally). And Hecate -- so rarely seen; whether her lines were written by Shakespeare or not, Lorraine Stobbe made them count as she took the witches to task and made simple gestures count for even more. Is it in the text that with a movement of her head Hecate helps Fleance escape? No, but more of that kind of inventiveness was called for.

The production design (by Berry) was quite simple -- the stage was unencumbered but for three platforms, one of which opened up to reveal a table setup; and his lighting design subtly shifted attention. Now, about that faithfulness to text -- isn't it backwards for women to play men's parts? Well yes, but Stephanie Stone made a fine Seyton anyway. And it was quite interesting to see a Macduff played more kingly than Malcolm (Erik Kever Ryle), who doesn't seem to want to be king anyway. In the current climate it was startling to realize that the determined Macduff speaking to the wavering Malcolm seemed like a resolute Colin Powell talking to a recalcitrant George W. Bush. Berry may be right to treat Shakespeare reverently, but interpretations don't have to detract. Shakespeare hasn't survived 400 years for nothing.

Also with Scott Glascock, Lina Cloffe, Ken Glickfeld, Michael Bernstein, Eric Hanson, David Hutson, Jeff Callan, Lexie Steinberg, Dudley Stone.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler