By William Shakespeare
Directed by Irwin Appel
Starring Christian Ryan and Lucy Lavely
Tonight’s program provides a minimalist synopsis: Witches tell Macbeth he will be king, He kills lots of people and becomes king, and then he gets killed. We know there’s a curse floating around this work as well, but it only applies to actors and I’m immune. So far.
The first thing I noticed tonight: “Everyone here gets killed at least once.” And most of the actors get killed repeatedly, but the power of secret Elizabethan ninja mojo keeps bringing them back to life, just like a good horror movie. Everyone on this stage gets plenty of ninja time; there secret weapons are large, angry looking sticks for master kabuki stage fights. A rotating series of percussionists beat out time and troop musters on a drum, and occasionally they pluck a few notes on an anorexic guitar-guitar like instrument. Under the action we watch a true case of political suicide as Macbeth wins a battle; his reward is a window tower and a nice bonus. But his wife had bigger plans, none of which make things better. Everything falls apart when they over reach, dropping them head first into their own moat, head first and with their own knives in their backs.
As one would hope, we bask in heated flow of energy. Pounding drums, dim lighting and masked actors generate a hellish world where friend become foes at the drop of a greave. With an ensemble cast picking highlights challenges, but a few people leap out. Lady Macbeth (Miss Lavely) slunk around as the ambitious seductress while Susan O’Donnell stoked the fires under Ross. Kenny Babel represented the experienced warrior; he knows when to let younger men rush so he could remain alive for the next screen. Mr. Ryan’s Macbeth seemed too nice to pull off an assassination, but once the madness set in, he was at peak Elizabethan energy until the lid on his coffin drops. Fight director Tony Simotes presented an active, noise battle that left all the cast with limns intact and minimal blood loss.
It’s easy to see subtle political commentary in this production, whether intended or not. Hubris is a bigger threat than enemy tactics, but its oh, so attractive. Lady M over plays her hand, and her hubby ignores his own better counsel, trusting the chaos of war to protect him. Are there parallels in the real world? Always, that’s what makes this one of the most produced of the Bards work and one you should see in this stage, you will remember the productions long after you forget the pull quotes.