Monday, October 16, 2017

MACBETH (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

2017 is the Year of Macbeth, and we can all see why.  The election.  Many productions have explicitly stated this, either officially or face to face.

This MACBETH is at the Studio/Stage on Western Avenue (see below).  Inevitably it revisits a least a few ideas of other versions this last year, most obviously in a post-apocalyptic setting.  One might think after half a dozen versions of the same play I'd be bored?  No.  Because these have been good productions, each with a vibrant identity and surprises of their own.

Surprises?  From productions of the same play?  Yes!  Quite apart from difference in individual performances, a vision (from director Curtis Krick) guides this production, a vision which has its own arch comments about power and politics but remains anchored to personal tragedy on many, many levels -- but mostly, the tragedy of Lord and Lady Macbeth themselves.  Yes, they do terrible things.  They destroy lives with wanton cruelty.

But among their victims are themselves. 

Along the way a lot of startling, intriguing decisions take form on stage (a weird round structure center stage, at various times a bed or a table or a cauldron or a hill).  One, indicative of this world in which we find ourselves, lies in the repellent nature of both King Duncan (Sean Hilferty) and his son Malcom (Liam Cronin).  Many Macbeths build on the idea of restoring order in the wake of an evil king.  This production does a darker take, in which the world itself is corrupt, which itself is part of the tragedy. 

Likewise when we meet the Witches (Toni Del Sorbo and Jamel Corban Caldera) we meet a beautiful man and woman, with whom Lady Macbeth  (Dawn Alden) has clearly made a pact on behalf of her husband.  A delicious, almost shocking twist!

More, this twist is at the heart of the most original thing about this production.  In a unique turn, their marriage becomes even more of the heart of everything that happens.  We know Lady Macbeth has given birth.  Here we get a sense of an agonizing history behind that fact -- she has failed to give her beloved the son he so desperately wants and needs.  In a medieval setting this makes for disaster.  Since she cannot give her Lord a child, she gives him prophecy instead, doing all she can to win for him power, prestige, a throne and crown!

Later, poignantly, she tries to help him escape in the only way that remains now that he lives dishonored, despised, surrounded by enemies and slowly going mad.  This Macbeth (Bryson Jones Allman) upon hearing news of his bride's death, feels this as the worst of all possible calamities.  Almost a natural climax of the cycle of grisly disasters that have become his life and reign.  His wife even haunts the widower, allowing yet one more embrace, one more moment of comfort.  Before the final slaughter, the blood-caked end of all things.

This Macbeth tugged at the heart, amid the very real horror.  It tells the same old tale, but anew and makes it fresh to our eyes.  Seems churlish to ask for much more.

Okay, the font in the program was hard to read.  But other than that...!

Kudos also to the rest of the cast:  Elvinet Piard, Nicholas Teizeira, Alvaro Renteria, Mona Lutfi, Sean James, Amanda Noriko Newman, and Kurt Kanazawa.

Macbeth plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through November 4, 2017 with a special Halloween performance at 10pm on October 31, at the Studio/Stage 520 North Western Avenue (about two blocks south of Melrose), Los Angeles CA 90004.

No comments: