Out, damn plot!


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Sherry Saab
The Willful Company
Actor’s Theatre Workshop
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

The Willful Company’s revival of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth is set in a loony bin. The directorial concept by Sherry Saab started out promising enough, with characters in straitjackets wandering the rundown institution. She hoped to uncover "the corrupting influence of power" by re-imagining Scotland as a decaying insane asylum. However, what the concept mainly did is muddy the plot and convolute the Bard’s tense, terse tale.

It was never clear who were the crazies and who were the sane ones, as Shakespeare’s characters all seemed a bit deranged through the course of the two-act play. That was a shame, because given a more traditional reading, Saab’s acting force could have offered an intimate and immediate retelling of the murderous Macbeth and his Lady, and their ultimate descent into guilt-ridden madness. If we are led to believe that they have gone mad before there is a reason for it, it leaves the story with nowhere to go.

The exemplary ensemble included Paul Swinnerton as a sinister yet strangely sympathetic Macbeth, Farah Bala as an alluringly aloof Lady Macbeth, and the twisted trio of Melissa Silver, Daryl Brown, and Sinem Balkir as the wackiest witches ever to darken Macbeth’s door. Michael Menger was a very scary, Ben Beckley essayed the role of Duncan well, Wole Parks made a sturdy Macduff, and Jenni Peterson practically stole the show with her sexy, memorable turn as the Porter. Paul Casali, Robert Dioguardi, and Alison Kerrington rounded out the cast.

On the technical end, Brian Belluomini offered some intriguing lighting, and Maha Saab designed the fenced-in sets and durable costumes with support from Diana Baez and Elena Fuentes. Musical director Taylor Levine sustained the properly eerie mood, make-up artist Esther Mendoza literally did a bloody good job, and fight choreographer and safety instructor Josh Willis kept the casualties to a minimum.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2004 Elias Stimac