Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Macbeth"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2002 by Will Stackman


Reviewed by Will Stackman


by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jason Slavick
Macbeth…..Shawn Galloway
Lady Macbeth/Ensemble…..Anne Gottlieb
Macduff/ Murderer #2/Ensemble…..James Barton
Banquo/Lady Macduff/Hecate/Ensemble…..Lisa Anne Porter
Duncan/Murderer #1/Ensemble…..Joe Owens
Malcolm/Ensemble…..Constantine Maroulis
Ross/Seyton/Ensemble…..Elizabeth Wightman
Witch #1…..Laura Napoli
Witch #2…..Elizabeth Hayes
Witch #3…..Erin Bell

Boston Theatre Works current "Macbeth" is a job well begun, but not a job well done. There are a number of problems with this production of the Scottish play, beginning with three witches in white, who also play a few, but not enough, minor roles during the evening. On a dark set, in negative space with atmospheric lighting their costumes might work in principle if better executed, but against J. Michael Griggs unfinished-looking white panels in Karen Perlow's rudimentary lighting, the concept behind these characters seems imposed on the play, not of it. Even if the weird sisters were in longer blacks and grays - these hues aren't used much on the rest of the cast - they need to be more part of the action for the conceit to work, not merely sideline observers tapping on their assortment of percussion. Even the brief appearance of Hecate, usually omitted because of the inferiority of these lines, should have been reprised, even in dumb-show, during the apparition scene.

Extensive doubling, which has a number of women in this small ensemble playing male parts as breeches roles, has become a way of life for companies producing the Bard for school audiences, indeed, for many highschool and college productions as well. The practice in itself is no longer remarkable . Doing so, however, indicates a level of theatricality that must consistently inform the entire production. The requirements of doubling (and tripling) roles in this production, moreover, have resulted in cutting several parts, and/or assigning them to one of the witches, The play would be better served by having one more actor in the company - of either gender - to play young male parts especially, beginning with Donalbain, who actually can be omitted. Fleance, Banquo's son, though, needs to be more than a walk-on, MacDuff's son is sorely missed, and Young Siward, the only person killed onstage by Macbeth can't be replaced by the actor who played Duncan. Joe Owens, who takes both parts in this production, isn't regal enough earlier in the play, and has become just Ensemble by the end.

The rest of the cast has moments; the two leads under more rigorous direction could both be exceptional. Anne Gottlieb as the Lady has more facility with verse; Shawn Galloway as the Thane tends to plow through. His lines are intelligible, but sometimes lack depth of meaning. Constantine Maroulis makes the most of Malcolm, though in the crucial "testing" scene with Macduff, played by James Barton, neither manages the intricacies of this difficult scene particularly well. Barton, incidently, would have been a better choice for doubling the old king. Lisa Ann Porter makes a fair stab at Banquo, her verse reading is the best of a somewhat hurried lot. Elizabeth Wightman has the unenviable job of playing utility Lord; the director might have found her something in one of the smaller roles. In all cases, these actor's jobs would have been made easier onstage by more headgear and costume accessories, such as badges of office, not to mention a portable banner or two. And some branches with green leaves, not white interior decoration supplies. There's evident budgetary constraint in most technical aspects of the show.

The greatest directorial faux pas, one all too common these days, is staging Macbeth's death onstage. Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he had Macduff pursue the bloody villain offstage; it wasn't merely the politics of the time that made killing a Scottish King, possibly even in front of one, a bad idea. Contemporary stage combat cliches, which seem to be inspired by the WWF, may satisfy today's audience bloodlust, but such a violent scene hampers the end of the play, regardless of interpretation. There can be noises off as Malcolm and his cohorts enter, still slightly unsure of their victory, but Macduff's traditional entry with the tyrant's head is essential, probably with the crown in his other hand. The end of the play can then build toward hailing the new king, however doubtful his future may be.

Shakespeare is always worth seeing, anyone doing adequate productions of the Bard for the schools should be applauded, but this effort is B minus at best.
Will Stackman

"Macbeth" (22 February - 13 March)
Tremont Theatre, 276 Tremont Street. BOSTON MA
1 (617)728-4321

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide