Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bakersfield Mist (review)

Spoilers Ahoy!

Forgive my pontificating, but there seems a link between fine art and theatre arts. Both require the audience's actual presence.  Movies and t.v., even audio books remain portable. But art and theatre (concerts too, come to think of it) don't really work unless you are actually there, present, taking in whatever is to be offered.

Bakersfield Mist touches on this idea, how we find ourselves moved and maybe even rendered raw by not just passively observing, but by participating.  In theatre, we breathe the same air as the artists as they create.  Just as when going to a museum, you get the real impact of a painting by walking up to it, seeing it in real time, sharing space with it.

All of which helps bring out the very wonderful, very terrible truths of humanity in this play written and directed by Stephen Sachs.

Maude Gutman (Jenny O'Hara) lives in a trailer park outside Bakersfield, California.  She welcomes a very special guest one afternoon -- Lionel Percy (Nick Ullett) an elderly art expert here to examine a canvas she purchased for a song.  She believes, rightly or wrongly, it an actual Jackson Pollack, which would make it worth millions of dollars.  What follows becomes far more than a clash of cultures between two supremely different people.  Their differences abound, of course!  Quite a bit more than what we see on the surface.

What grabs our hearts most of all, though, is how much they have in common.  Just to start, they both admire Pollack so intensely--despite the fact Maude thinks his paintings hideous.  Most of the time.  Every now and then, she sees something else.  Something almost beautiful.

Lionel comes to view her in much the same way.  He even says as much towards the end, assuring her that the very power and courage and vibrant life to be found in great art she herself possesses.

The journey these two take on the stage draws one in, amid esoteric discussions of art and forensics, terrible recollections of human failure as well as tragedies beyond control.  We become part of their conversation, as much a witness and participant as if our seats were in that trailer.  Indeed that is the point.  In live theatre, as with seeing fine art in person, we become part of what is happening in the moment.  Just as seeing a Jackson Pollack in the flesh beats out any and all gazing at photos, so living this time with Maude and Lionel becomes so much more than any recording could convey.

We see them.  We come to know them.  Even love them a little bit.  And wisely, we never once see the face of that painting.  No, that would distract.  The art we are here to see is the play, and that art sweeps us up.

Bakersfield Mist plays Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm until January 30, 2016 at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandnie), Los Angeles CA 90029.

Other People's Money (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I remember hearing about this play when it first appeared on Broadway, and later saw the movie starring Danny DeVito and Penelope Ann Miller. The film was okay.

The play, it turns out, pulls far fewer punches.  Other People's Money by Jerry Sterner isn't a new work but has lost precious little of its relevance.  Quite the opposite.  One of its punches ends up rather subtle. More on that later.

The story focuses on New England Wire & Cable, a struggling firm in Rhode Island targeted by Lawrence Garfinkel, aka "Larry the Liquidator" (Rob Adler), a man who specializes in taking over failing businesses and selling their assets at a profit.  At first the CEO of NEW&C, Jorgenson (Kent Minault) simply doesn't see the danger of a Wall Street bigwig buying up so much of his stock.  He greets Larry with open arms.  Larry even sighs, turns to the audience and says "Just my luck.  A nice guy." That little aside gives a hint as to what makes this play work so very well.  None of the characters really seem evil.  None are reckless or stupid or irresponsible.  But each has their own, in many ways perfectly valid, point of view.

Credit: Ed Krieger
Coles (Peter Michael McDonald), President of NEW&C, sees the danger at once, but cannot convince his boss, who clings to a view of business, industry and the economy that probably worked extremely well in the 1940s and 50s. As he begins to see what is at stake, he grudgingly agrees to get some help.  His secretary Bea (D.J.Harner) has a daughter, Kate (Robyn Cohen), a big time lawyer in New York.  She almost as reluctantly agrees to help, still bitter that these two betrayed her late father for years, even if (as seems possible) their relationship remained platonic.

But of course Jorgenson won't take any of her advice.  Instead he insults her, and only Coles manages to persuade her to say.  When she finally agrees to go meet Larry, things step up a notch--and foreshadows so very much of what is to come.
Point of views in total conflict.  The real world is like that.

Credit: Ed Krieger
They like each other.  Oh, they fight like cats and dogs.  Theirs is a struggle of wills, and both enjoy that fact to the hilt.  Unlike others, they understand precisely what each other means--while Kate all-too-clearly doesn't believe the arguments she's making on behalf of her client.  

More, Larry turns out to have a rigid set of ethics, in its own way as unbending as Jorgenson.  Larry sees himself as an advocate of shareholders, those who own and invest in companies with the express purpose of making a profit.

Eventually it all comes down to a showdown at the shareholders' meeting, with each side giving their case.

Credit: Ed Krieger
Notice who is meeting?  Wonder which one they will listen to?  This climax of the play probably highlights the best acting in the entire show, especially Harner's reading of the formal procedures, as we can hear in every breath she knows how this will go.  Just as we see Minault feels pretty much the same way, and is utterly wrong. When Adler at the end simply says "I'm sorry" to Cohen, a lot of subtext flowed into those two words.

Barely mentioned in all this are the ordinary workers, who lose their jobs.  And you want to blame someone, but it is hard to pin too much blame on anyone.  What, do we expect investors not to want a return on their investment?  Is their desire for a good life with money enough to pay for same somehow inferior to those of blue collar workers?  Yeah, the company should have changed with the times, but is that really something everyone can do?  We might decry human frailty and error, but there really isn't anyway around it, is there?  So we are left with neither a diatribe against soulless financial sharks nor a panacea about finding a way to make everything all right.  The play ends on a melancholy note, with the characters--and hopefully the audience--a bit wiser.  In the end therein lies all the hope we are likely to get.  Up to us to make that enough.

Other People's Money plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays ata 3pm at the Pico Playhouse 10508 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90064, until December 18, 2016.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cymbeline (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Approaching Cymbeline, I had mixed feelings.  As ever, I hoped to enjoy the show.  Seeing a Shakespeare play I'd never viewed before made a tad giddy.  But then, the question in the back of my head didn't go away--why isn't this play done more?

I have my answer.  The plot is crazy.  Really, I don't think there's a more complex one in Shakespeare, not even Twelfth Night or Comedy of Errors.  The scale is vast, ranging from Ancient Britain to Augustus Caesar's Rome.  Mistaken identities make up a tiny bit of that (including a headless corpse).  Characters weave intricate plots, whose plans rarely go as expected, while nearly everyone makes some kind of terrible error.  In the end even the King (and title character) stops characters from explaining what happened.  And we the audience laugh along with him at that!

Although to be fair--and impressed--the cast do a wonderful job of keeping the plot clear while we watch it.  This marks the first of many praises I have for them.

Credit: Richard Gonzalez
To give a quick precis of how it all begins:  Cymbeline (William Dennis Hunt), an aging king, had three daughters but two vanished in infancy.  No one knows what happened to them--a plot point you'd be right will return.  His youngest daughter and heir, Imogen (Olivia Buntaine) has secretly married Posthumus (Dane Oliver), the orphaned son of a Roman officer whom the King has raised.  This causes rage, since Cloten (Jordan Klomp) the King's new stepson via his marriage to a new Queen (Christine Avila) wanted to wed her.  Besides, she didn't ask permission and poor Posthumus is not noble.  He is forced into exile, leaving his servant Pisania (Victoria Yvonne Martinez) with Imogen.  In Rome, a fairly vile Italian Lord named Iachimo (Daniel Ramirez) persuades him to a stupid bet over Imogen's purity.

Credit: Richard Gonzalez
The rest of plot has elements of fairy tales, Gilbert & Sullivan, even a few dashes of King Lear.  Horrible misunderstandings and lies abound, as well as a war between Britain and Rome, in which most characters are somehow involved.  Along the way, we meet Morgan (Gerard Marzilli) a disgraced warrior, banished by Cymbeline on a false charge twenty years ago, who kidnapped the King's daughters named them Polydora (Celia Mandela) and Cadia (Michelle Wicklas) and raised them as fierce Welsh warrior women.

Bit of an historical note, Queen Elizabeth's family the Tudors were Welsh.

Credit: Richard Gonzalez
It turns out these three play a crucial part in preventing British Conquest after Cymbeline tells the Roman Ambassador Caia Lucia (Kathleen Leary) he will pay no more tribute to Caesar.

Again, it makes for a very intricate story the whole production keeps clear as we watch it.  This in turn allows us to pay attention to the drama, the interaction of characters, and the way choices bear often unpredictable consequences. Cymbeline portrays a world of deep uncertainty, where national destinies hang on random decisions and raw chance.  Here loved ones betray each other, or seem to, where betrayal is sometimes rewarded and lies offer carnage as well as salvation.  Forgiveness proves cheap, or maybe unattainable, or maybe both.  Villains and heroes dot the story, and sometimes characters are both, while more than once a fool shifts the lives of everyone involved.

Yeah, it feels familiar, this world.  Sometimes very familiar.  Not least because the whole cast makes sure we see each person who walks on stage as just that--a person. An individual.  With stories left ultimately unfinished as the plot of this play comes to a close.

Cymbeline plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm until November 20, 2016 at the Whitmore Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 West Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood CA 91601.

The Tempest (review)

Disclaimer: I helped a little with the design of the show's poster, mostly in terms of fonts and text layout.

Spoilers ahoy!

Interesting thing about Shakespeare's The Tempest--one of his last plays, it marks the only time he obeyed the so-called "Three Unities" of theatre (a popular academic view based on Aristotle), and in terms of set-up resembles a revenge tragedy rather than a comedy.  More than one critic has noted the play seems more modern than some of his other works, given its exploration of what we would call "Colonialism."

What Jana Wimer decided with this production was to focus on these darker aspects of the work.  On top of that, she went with a distinctly science fiction setting.

At this point many a reader might start thinking of seminal science fiction film Forbidden Planet, which was openly a re-telling of Shakespeare's play.

Credit:  Jana Wimer
Instead--and refreshingly--we get a blend of many tributes to science fiction, from Star Trek to Avatar with a dash of Doctor Who.  The ship that crashes as the play begins is clearly some kind of spacecraft. Ariel (Elif Savas) proves to be an alien, with Caliban (Jonica Patella) a half-breed of the same species.  In a dark turn--one of many--both wear pain-inducing collars placed there by Prospero (Bert Emmett) who bears a distinct resemblance to Count Dooku of Star Wars in some ways.  A similar collar ends up on Prince Ferdinand (Vanessa Cate) who as per the script almost immediately sets out seducing Miranda (Alex Kereszti) -- a fairly vacuous teenager brimming with hormones quite dazzled by this very handsome prince wooing her.

Credit:  Jana Wimer
All of which sounds fun and certainly is!

But what really makes this production stand out are two factors.  First, the cast overall gives some amazing performances.  Emma Pauly and Zack Zoda as Prospero's brother Antonio and King Alonso's brother Sebastian in particular do a lot with what cannot be called very fleshed-out characters, as does Ernest Kearney as Ferdinand's Dad the King of Naples, wracked by guilt in the wake of what he believes to be his son's death.

(One nicely dark touch--Ferdinand used his belief in King Alonso's death to impress a local girl.  Ah, the young.)

Mark Dakota meanwhile plays the good lord Gonzalo as an android--equal parts Lt. Cdr. Data and the Tin Woodsman.  It makes for a nicely bizarre touch, especially since Ariel and Gonzalo end up rather fascinated/pleased with one another.

Credit:  Jana Wimer
But maybe the most impressive and moving scenes actually belong to Caliban and drunken ship's Captain Stephano (Jason Britt).  Oddly enough, by cutting Trinculo, Wimer made these scenes so much more poignant -- the drunkard and the slave becoming friends over a bottle of wine, or the nearest thing maybe they've ever had to friends.  By turns funny, grotesque, heart-warming and sad, these few scenes prove the emotional core of the production--leading up to the tragedy of its climax.

Yes, tragedy.  It is right there on the poster.  She adapted the play, using Shakespeare's words but allowing the tragedy the original literally waves away with a magic wand to play out. It made for a startling night, and one I find simmering still in my subconscious.  Makes for a Tempest well worth checking out!

The Tempest plays Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm until December 18, 2016 (no shows Thanksgiving weekend) at ZJU 4850 Lankershim (just south of the NoHo sign), North Hollywood CA 91601.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bloodletting (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I was invited "blind" to see the play Bloodletting by the Playwrights Arena.  I looked at the cover image on the program and said "Wow, that looks like an aswang."  For those who don't know, an aswang is a kind of shape-shifting vampire witch, part of Filipino folklore and legends, as well as very prevalent in their cinema.  The set certainly looked like it might be in the Philippines.  I was excited!

By the end I was more than excited.  Because while a nice vampire story in a different culture (which this certainly proved to be) would have left me happy, Bloodletting took that up a notch.  I adore when mythology becomes what it truly is meant as--a metaphor for essential truths, for life.

Which is what I got!

New York actress Farah Legazpi (Myra Cris Ocenar) and her Los Angeles brother Bosley Legazpi (Boni B. Alvarez) arrive one night outside a small cafe in the Philippines, where their parents came from but they haven't been since childhood.  Bickering with long practice, the two seek shelter in the storm.  Jenry Flores (Alberto Isaac) doesn't want to take them in at this late hour, but his granddaughter Leelee (Evie Abat) insists.  She takes one look at Farah and reacts with glee, recognizing her from a t.v. show.

Anyone recognizing the most basic vampire trope of travelers stranded in a foreign land due to storms won't be far wrong.  Honestly, as a fan of the genre, I really enjoyed how the playwright--Alvarez--reinvented tropes.  But that was later.  I ended up far too caught up in the story.

Sister and brother are on a mission, to spread their father's ashes.  Clearly they do not get along, not least because their father disliked Bosley and Farah pretty much agreed.  They both see him as weak in many ways.  Nor do they seem completely wrong.  Yet these tensions steadily crank up as the Weird makes itself known.  Farah goes outside to have a cigarette, and somehow manages to, despite the rain.  Jenry insists Bosley buy a charm to protect himself from aswangs.  Bosley remembers those from terrifying stories their mother told them as children. Meanwhile, in the night Leelee approaches Farah, urging her to look into the moon, to see things there as she does.  Eventually, Farah does--to her horror.  Not least because Leelee claims she herself is an Aswang, and so is Farah.  She can tell!

This could so easily have been played for just spooky horror and fun.  And I would have liked that!  What I got instead was humor laced with pathos and human drama--which I liked a lot more!

Sibling rivalry erupts, as the real passions and jealousies emerge.  Hence the title, really.  When we bleed, we tell the truth.  So the metaphor goes.  Like most people, Farah and Bosley don't want to face the truth.  Yet there beside them are Jenry and Leelee, who've managed to face their own, equally painful truths.  About the light and darkness in us all, and how we don't always feel the way we "should" feel.  More, we simply and hurtfully rarely emerge as what we think we are.

Much of the drama simply (and profoundly) comes from gnawing at old wounds, none really healed as it turns out.  Well, of course not.  Leelee and Jenry remember her mother's murder, echoing how Bosley and Farah each reacted to their father's slow death--he ignoring his son, then passing on his nature to an unknowing daughter (legend says the power of an aswang must be passed by mouth to a chosen heir).  Each looks upon themselves, to weep and maybe learn, or start to learn.  Because after all, if creatures such as Aswangs do exist, isn't that reason to question...well, everything?

Bloodletting plays Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm and Mondays at 7pm until November 27, 2016 at the Atwater Village Theatre 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90039.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Mariela in the Desert (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I want to begin noting one thing.  Pretty soon after the start of Mariela in the Desert, I wanted to read more about this playwright Karen Zacarias. The characters and the situation drew me in that swiftly.

Mariela (Rachel Gonzalez) is the much younger wife of a famous artist named Jose (Vance Valencia).  She lives with and nurses the old man, dying and going blind from diabetes in 1950s Mexico.  Jose snarls and weeps, while Mariela endures.  With them is Jose's older sister Olivia (Denise Blasor), fragile and afraid, clutching the faith her brother and sister-in-law have long since abandoned.  Once this house in the desert had been an oasis of art, a meeting place of the great artists of the day.  Now is seems haunted.

Perhaps literally.  We slowly learn some of this history shaping the passions seething here.  Mariela had never wanted to live here.  After arriving, she'd eventually stopped painting her own works.  Daughter Blanca (Vannessa Vasquez) grew up here but, now in college, hasn't been back in years.  With Jose slowly dying, Mariela has taken extreme measures to get Blanca to come home.  She sent a telegram with a big lie in it.  Blanca arrives with the art Professor (Randy Vasquez) with whom she is involved, and together they churn up the past like archeologists.

But the real (or not-quite-real) ghost is Carlos (Kenneth Lopez), Mariela's son--he died years ago.  A gentle, educationally challenged child, rumors say he runs in the desert now.  Locals claim as much.  Olivia says maybe she's seen him.

Like a mystery story, complete with wonderfully simple flashbacks, truths emerge.  Not The Truth, but some of the truths of these lives. Between the two, for example, it emerges Mariela was always the greater artist.  Jose loved her for that, but could not overcome his own jealousy, not forgive her for giving in to his selfishness. Her patient loyalty is a fortress he seeks to breach, and for much of the play we wonder what it will take?

Just as we wonder about the one great masterpiece everyone agrees Jose produced at the end of his career--"The Blue Barn."  Blanca's Professor reacts in awe upon learning the painting is here, in their house, but vandalized by Jose himself.

Much of the play, much of the drama between all these characters, leads back one way or another to that painting.  That it has such impact we eventually understand--all the more impressive because we never see it.  A nice trick that, because it becomes a masterpiece in our own minds.  Gradually it comes into focus as we see the troubling but not at all harsh relations between Mariela and her children.  As we watch Jose's reaction, as his fame recedes and the desert fails to inspire him, fails to make him paint the beauty he can see in his mind--a gnawing source of despair and rage.

The story and characters made me want things for them, made me eventually start to fear yet desire each revelation.  Frankly amid all this director Robert Beltran and the cast manage a tricky balancing act, rooting all things in a dynamic in the same "vein" as Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill.  Also, and this impresses me in a subtle way, throughout I felt this was not an American story.  Yes, it dealt first, foremost and last of all with the human condition and universal human truths.  But I also found myself entering and embracing a culture, a world, a nation I barely know--Mexico.  That makes it a little more special, at least to me.  Because I felt my soul grow just a little bit, in part simply because I recognized this strange world as home in some way.  A place as human as the inhabitants of it.  As human as I myself, so it feels familiar.

I'm less impressed with the sound design, while the lighting was lovely, and the set didn't quite transport me to the desert. But those are nitpicks.  A tiny bit of research reveals this was one of Zaccarias' early plays.  I'm eager to see some more!

Mariela in the Desert plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm with Sundays at 5pm until December 11, 2016 (no performances on Thanksgiving weekend) at Casa 0101, 2102 East First Street, Los Angeles CA 90033.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Girl Gods (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Art is metaphor.  Once we start thinking about it, that seems so obvious.  When overwhelmed by lies, obligations, contradictions and distrust we are Hamlet.  When all too young and all too in love we are Juliet.  And so on.  Yes we remain like them, but at its best theatre doesn't make us think about how much we resemble those on stage.  Rather, we recognize them.

They are us.

Girl Gods from Pat Graney gives us that experience.  First we see a world, that of this dance piece.  Two walls of white boxes on a white stage (designed by Holly Batt).  Within the walls, like niches in other (more famous) walls we see objects.  A tea set.  Plates.  Some folded cloth which will turn out to be things like aprons. Then a young woman in a formal but plain black dress appears, wearing big black high heeled shoes.  In one hand, she holds a tea cup and saucer.  As we watch, she crosses the stage in quiet, intense terror.  Not once do those heavy shoes make a sound.  Her practiced steps won't allow that.  Erie silence fills our ears, broken only by slight shaking of her hand, making the tea cup rattle.  She took what seemed like hours to cross.

Here then was our world, where we would visit for seventy minutes.  Pristine.  Monochrome.  A place of fear and ritual and where this young woman at least serves someone else (otherwise why not simply drink her cup of tea?).  Just to make a final point, as she exits the white wall of boxes become a screen as we see her (headless, via a choice in where to aim a camera) just as we've seen her, but underwater.  Continuing with her chore/ritual/task/punishment/duty.

We see other girls underwater later.  After a time, we understand.  They are drowning.  Eventually, we discover we are drowning with them.

All kinds of things ran through my mind watching this dance piece.  Women, I thought, seeking to understand or escape or transcend or change so simply survive strictures, rules, shapes.  Later I though about cruelty.  Quite a lot of cruelty--subtle but fierce--plays out.  Two vignettes about eating made my skin crawl, not least for knowing those struggling with bulimia, anorexia, or merely a never-ending quest for some perfect shape, a perfect weight.  I thought about how rage ends up re-shaped, forced into new directions, while watching the consistent pattern of infantilizing women played out--sometimes with humor, always with an edge of the grotesque.  Yet beautiful.

But never a lecture!  The dancers--Cheryl Delostrinos, Sruti Desai, Sarah Hogland, Lorraine Lau, Jenny Peterson--never take that cheap way out.  Never let us off any hook by such simplicity.  Pat Graney's piece remains as all great art, a puzzle to contemplate as well as a experience to sink into one's bones.  This one will stay with me for awhile.  Other audience-members when I saw it wept openly.  I felt that urge later, as certain images and motions surfaced in memory.  As I write this my mind goes to the title.  Girl Gods.  Why girls?  Why not women?  Eventually the idea comes--maybe because these characters remain, as yet, girls with womanhood to come?

Maybe.  Well into middle age I often feel this.  How can people expect me of all people to somehow function as an adult?  I'm not a man, but still a boy.  Just a boy.  Still growing up.  With so much yet to learn.

Like I said.  Recognition.  They are us.

For those concerned, this performance does include nudity.

Girl Gods as of this writing has performances Saturday Nov. 5 at 8:30pm and Sunday Nov. 6 at 3pm, at the REDCAT downtown, 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Macbeth (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

One of the Shakespeare's most popular (and difficult) plays, Macbeth is also a natural for the Halloween season.  In this case the Vagrancy mounts the strange, strange tale (and yes, the more one looks at it, the stranger this play seems).  As the poster suggests, it vastly expands the role and presence of the "Weird Sisters" -- interestingly, this involves cutting all but their most essential lines.  But the Three (Kelly Perez, Marissa Dorrego Brennan, Carolyn Deskin) relentlessly wander in and around the plot.  Distorted of limb, with gaping mouths and staring eyes, they act as a silent Greek Chorus, commenting in almost-dance about every thing happening.

The danger with doing this lies in neglecting the title character, but director Caitlin Hart does an extremely fine job in what remains one of the most vital but subtle jobs of doing many a play--balance.  None of the plots nor any of the characters end up short-changed.

Macbeth (Daniel Kaemon) and his bride (Alana Dietze) with their increasingly tangled relationship lies at the heart of the tragedy here.  Again, the production avoids a common problem with doing Shakespeare's tragedies--in this, we actually feel the tragedy for the central characters, the tragic Hero (in this case,  heroes since Lady Macbeth most certainly counts).   We have a sense of what Might-Have-Been, namely if they had not fallen prey to temptation.  More, their performances firmly portray the couple as young, vital, not yet mellowed by age, and crucially not only impatient but still hopeful for children.  This last proves essential, else the threat of Banquo's (Arthur Keng) prophecy makes little sense.

Credit: Wes Marsala
Perhaps most poignantly, part of the tragedy we feel is the permanent, growing rift between a husband and wife who seem happy at first, well-matched and genuinely in love.  Until a momentous SIN isolates them from each other and even themselves.

The entire ensemble, from Queen Duncan (Ann Colby Stocking) to the famous Porter (Steve Madar), Macduff (Joseph D. Valdez) his Lady (Elitia Daniels) and child (Aliyah Conley) and Prince Malcolm (Brandon Ruiter) each get an opportunity to shine and all them give it their all.  Even the seemingly tiny role of Fleance (Andrew Grigorian) gives quite an important turn in the end.

Credit: Wes Marsala
But I also want to talk about the design--set (Tristan Jeffers), costumes (Kaitlyn Kaufman), with lighting and sound (Matt Richter).  Because these elements did something mighty impressive, namely creating an extremely specific sense of time and place.  It isn't immediately obvious, but throughout it was vivid and consistent.  I myself imagined this was a Scotland in which the First World War continued decade after decade, so that a generation or so later people lived in the remnants of what was left.  I imagined the poisons from gas and other weapons had seeped into the soil, at least tainting and twisting nature spirits which should have been Fae or Dryads into the warped creatures who give Macbeth and Banquo their prophecies--in revenge.

Credit: Wes Marsala
Altogether a tour-de-force of creepiness, that accomplishes another difficult trick--making a very well known play feel fresh.  Kudos to the rest of the cast as well--My-Ishia Cason-Brown, Kamar Elliot, Austin Iredale, Blaine Nicholls, Andrew Walke, Ciera Jo Thompson, Rebecca Everhart, Maia Kasin and Meredith Brown.  All too often, given the size of Shakespeare's casts, one has to overlook weak players.  In the Vagrancy's Macbeth I did not, and that counts as among the least of their accomplishments.

Macbeth plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm until November 20, 2016 at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, 1238 West First Street, Los Angeles CA 90026.