a: Macbeth

Posted: August 18, 2010 by alexandra kartova in Theatre

Synopsis: A vivacious, heat-filled, capoeira-infused amalgamation of sex, ambition and pure adrenaline. The story of a man and woman who are tempted by the devil. An exciting reworking from Push/Pull Theater Company and an incredible cast of DC actors.

I feel like I’ve seen Macbeth a million times.  With all of the reading, schooling, monologuing and general actor-reciting I know most of Shakespeare’s major plays.  When one feels this way it is difficult to find a production that stirs any sort of emotion or shows any creativity.  This production of Macbeth, though, did both.

If I had to choose one thing that this production did really well, it would be the use and characterization of the Witches.  Instead of simply existing and creating mischief backstage like in most productions, these Witches were invisible to the actors unless they wanted to be seen.  They swarmed around Lady Macbeth during her climatic monologue and controlled Banquo during the dinner scene.  They made you question whether or not Macbeth would have done the things he did if they hadn’t interfered.  It’s these simple, common sense uses that really created the play’s atmosphere.  The other great thing about the Witches was the departure from typical casting.  Instead of having three females being the Witches, this production had two females (Charlene Smith and Kristen Garaffo) and one male (Alex Mandell).  This created a fascinating dynamic in which it was hard to look away.  It seemed that the Smith and Garaffo’s job was to go around seductively manipulating everyone while Mandell was stuck doing the grunt work.  Although, another way of looking at it is that Mandell was the leader since he possessed and used the most power and seemed to be behind each incantation, possession and spell.  You decide.

David Winkler’s rendition of Macbeth was great.  It wasn’t so much that he brought the character Macbeth to life as much as he brought life to the language.  Sadly, most of the audience in Shakespeare’s shows get too caught up in the language to enjoy anything else about the production, but in this case Winkler made it exceedingly easy to follow.  Let me make something clear:  it wasn’t just the fact that Winkler was easy to follow onstage, it was the fact that he seemed to completely modernize the language.  There wasn’t one moment that he was speaking that I had to think about what he was saying since he did all of that work for me.  It’s rare to find an actor that can do such a thing.

The first, and only, time I’ve ever felt bad for a King dying in Shakespeare was during this performance.  Carl Brandt Long as Duncan seemed so genuinely nice and jolly that it seemed like something was wrong with the world to see him leave in such a fashion.

I wanted to like Lady Macbeth (Anna Brungardt) but the director (Jessica Aimone) made some poor editing choices when it came to her character.  Any monologue or line that might have helped the audience connect to her (in one way or another) seemed to be cut from the play so all that was left was the note reading scene (superfluous), the scene where she seduces Macbeth into killing Duncan and a “double scene” where Lady Macbeth utters four lines of her climatic monologue while Macduff (Ryan Tumulty) is told that his wife and children have been slain.  This was the worst part of the play and I’m so glad that the rest of the play was strong enough to withstand this atrocious mistake.  I have to hand it to Brungardt, though.  She sits front stage and (mostly) silently goes crazy while an entire scene goes on behind her.  I also have to say that the scene going on behind Lady Macbeth is a good one.  It was difficult to give the focus that both scenes deserved.

Lastly, I need to mention the live drumming that took place during the performances.  Absolutely awesome!  They really added to the tension and atmosphere in general.  They never seemed out of place and never seemed to detract from a scene.  Definitely a good choice that complimented the capoeira fighting style and natural (wood, wire, cloth) choices for costuming.

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