Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Macbeth"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


by William Shakespeare
directed by Adrianne Krstansky

Macbeth … Marya Lowry
Lady Macbeth … Paula Plum
Banquo … Jacqui Parker
Macduff; Lady Macduff … Sarah Newhouse
Malcolm … Robin JaVonne Smith
Ross; Doctor … Candice Brown
Angus; Fleance; Son to Macduff; Young Siward …Victoria Bucknell
Lennox; Gentlewoman … Ruby Rose Fox
Witch One; Bloody Captain; Murderer One; Seyton … Denise Cormier
Witch Two; Duncan; Porter; Old Siward … Bobbie Steinbach
Witch Three; Donalbain; Murderer Two … Jessica Kochu

Shakespearean companies often feel that the Bard must be made “timely” for today’s audiences --- a nice way of saying directorial egos winning out over Shakespeare’s genius --- happily, the Actors’ Shakespeare Project provides far more intuitive flashes than distortion with its all-female production of MACBETH, played out in a distant past where there are department-store lamps aplenty but no swordplay (Macbeth, in battle, threatens with a chair held over his head). Director Adrianne Krstansky has no obvious axe to grind, thank you, and once your ears adjust to sopranos and contraltos declaiming as tenors and basses, there is much aural pleasure to be had, here; since today’s Shakespearean actresses tend to shout and stomp through their roles, anyway, it seems fitting to let them deliberately do it, for a change.

Marya Lowry was once my “golden trumpet warmed by the sun”; nowadays, she seems to be holding back a scream; such quivering, bug-eyed fierceness is put to good use once Macbeth starts down his fated path (there’s a lovely moment with Macbeth and his Murderers huddled ‘round a desk lamp’s chiaroscuro so that Ms. Lowry’s mask become truly satanic) but the reflective, poetic side of the man --- i.e., his ruined humanity --- rarely comes to the fore; still, this is a distinctly Shakespearean performance, grand and sweeping, albeit closer to Hamlet in its brooding or Richard III in its dark wit --- but will Ms. Lowry ever grow warm, again? On the other hand, Paula Plum’s Lady Macbeth would be more at home in a 1930s tenement drama as a fluttering, high-strung wife; for once, I miss her usual flamboyance (in my mind theatre, Ms. Plum would enter, hold up her bloody hands, and cry, “Jungle Red!”) --- if Ms. Lowry sweeps, Ms. Plum embroiders with what little is left to her role: the “screw your courage” duet is gone and her two sleepwalkers are rolled into one; apparently the good lady is meant to be emotionally fragile from the get-go…after all, the evening starts off with her screeching from amidst all those lamps.

Sarah Newhouse plays everything she touches as granite-hard, be it male or female, and her Macduff is nothing new; Jacqui Parker makes an impressive, masculine Banquo; and Robin JaVonne Smith, new to me, contributes a most-lyrical Malcolm. The three witches are nicely ragged in Act One --- Denise Cormier’s, in particular, resembles Little Edie of “Grey Gardens” fame --- but Act Two’s coven is garish drag from hell, so over the top that I could not decide whether the joke is on the audience or its designer…

"Macbeth" (18 October-11 November)
Studio 102, BU College of Fine Arts, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (866) 811-4111

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide