By William Shakespeare
Directed by Josephine Gallarello
Frog & Peach Theatre Company
Equity showcase (through February 15)
Review by David Mackler

Ambition and lust for power, assassination plots and reliance on the assertions of fortune-tellers, bloody feuds, rivalries, and alliances-all current occurrences, and all covered by William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Frog & Peach Theatre Company's production was a stark, simple version that got its juice from the vigorous performances of its cast, as played out on a set with hard, metallic-looking wall surfaces done in a steely black and white.

Beginning with three rather glamorous-looking witches (Rachel Russell, Maureen Hennigan, Carrie Crow), dressed in black evening wear, who vamp Macbeth, the audience, and each other, the audience's focus was solidly on the actors. And they were, to a great extent, worth the attention. As Witch 1, Russell used her wonderfully plummy voice to waylay Macbeth and his cohorts as the plot was set in motion, and she had a short but sexy seduction dance with Macbeth, who is unaware of the consequences of the events he will soon set in motion. Ted Zurkowski's Macbeth was beautifully plain- and clear-spoken; ambitious, but missing the spark to forge ahead with his plot.

That spark is provided, of course, by Lady Macbeth (Lynnea Benson). Benson gave this Lady the fire and passion to inflame her Macbeth, and indeed they were truly excited by each other. "We will speak further" was a clear signal that his ambition and her drive were going to ignite in some fierce lovemaking. Benson's Lady was terrifically, even humorously, manipulative, even as she hid behind a kittenish demeanor. Macbeth was a goner, but he wasn't complaining. And because of the dynamic of this relationship, when each cracked, it followed what had been shown about them. When Macbeth was stricken by his guilty conscience he knew it, but Lady Macbeth suppressed her guilt and was doomed to sleepwalking. She was at the mercy of forces she didn't understand as she tried to clean her hands, and he crumpled when he heard of her death. Macbeth became a petulant child when he fought to the death with Macduff-he had lost his rudder.

The rest of the cast also brought to their characters qualities that elucidated their actions. Ron Micca's Banquo was almost ingenuous in his trust and openness, and at his ghostly reappearance, rather than glare accusingly at Macbeth, he was more unnerving by letting his presence speak for itself. Malcolm (Matthew Karas) was suitably grave, and when he returned from his flight, he seemed well able to succeed his father as king. As Duncan, Howard I. Laniado was quite the elder statesman; Hal Smith-Reynolds, Jason Kuschner, and Tom Fenaughty all offered good support; and Mervyn Haines, Jr. brought the accent of Scotland to this, the Scottish play. Philippe Brenninkmeyer as Macduff was somewhat histrionic and overwrought, especially before his family was slaughtered, but the tragedy seemed to focus him, and from then he made more sense of the character.

The production was very well-directed by Gallarello-especially the various murders. A neck snapped here, a couple of throats slit there-each was expected, but still shocked. The costumes (by Bengal) were an integral part of the play; since most wore black or brown, the deviations were arresting. Lady Macbeth's white nightgown shone from the stage, and Lady Macduff's red gown foreshadowed her own fate. The pacing of the play sagged some in the second half, but by the end this Macbeth had well charted the depth of a man's downfall as the result of his own ambition.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1
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Copyright 1998 David Mackler