Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Macbeth"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Macbeth"

by William Shakespeareth
Directed and Lighting Designed by Terry Hands

Set and Costume Design by Timothy O'Brien
Sound Design by Tom Morse
Original Music by Colin Towns
Fight Director B. H. Barry
Production Stage Manager John M. Galo

Macbeth.............................................Kelsey Grammer
Lady Macbeth........................................Diane Vendora
Ross........................................................Michael Gross
Banquo..................................................Stephen Markle
Lady Macduff..............................................Kate Forbes
Porter/Captain/Seyton/Murderer.................Peter Gerety
Duncan/Old Man/Doctor/Siward.....Peter Michael Goetz
Macduff................................................Bruce A. Young
Murderer/Scottish Doctor..............................John Ahlin
Witch.......................................................Starla Benford
Lennox...........................................................Ty Burrell
Witch/Gentlewoman............................Kelly Hutchinson
Donalbain/Young Siward.............................Austin Lysy
Murderer..................................................Mark Mineart
Fleance/Servant............................................Jacob Pitts
Macduff's Daughter................................Jenna Spencer
Witch............................................Myra Lucretia Taylor
Macduff's Son............................................L. B. Tracey
Malcolm...........................................Sam Breslin Wright

I suppose I should take it as a compliment that Kelsey Grammer, standing down-center of the Colonial stage, met my eyes and delivered all but one of Macbeth's soliloquies and asides and several other lines directly to me. But since I sat in the second row center of the balcony, I wonder who all those groundlings seated below me thought he was speaking to. God, perhaps? Grammer and his colleagues could certainly use a little Divine intervention during this Boston try-out of what, on press-night, was still Macbeth Lite. The actors know their lines, and deliver them energetically (and Grammer has worked on his "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" speech), but the task here in Boston is to find something inside those lines that make them mean something. Almost anything will do.

Terry Hands the Lighting Designer uses no colored gels whatever, and the stark white beams stab across Timothy O'Brien's dead black set picking out his black costumes like lasers or architectural elements. (A staircase dropping in and out like a drawbridge, however, calls a lot of attention to itself, even in the dark.) But Terry Hands the Theatrical Director has apparently worked English style, assembling a supposedly competent cast, blocking them for effect, and then expecting them to surprise themselves with meanings. And this cast probably expects a director to impose meaning on their every gesture, the way another Shakespearean play is being doneon the other side of the Charles. So far, the only part fully realized is that of the drunken comic Porter --- one of four roles assigned to Peter Gerety.

B. H. Berry's broadsword fight scenes are well staged though repetitious, but everyone seems to die from a slit navel. The Weird Sisters come on stage robbing the dead and knifing the wounded, and cluster around a solid round centerstage spot in which Macbeth's dead face is the last image of the play. And there is a certain logic to having their knife-thrusts rather than Macduff's sword-slashes bring the tyrant down, since the lines do say his dependence on their prophecies did him in. Some vocal or emotional proof of either Macbeth's eagerness to believe them or surprise at their treacherous falsity might, by the time this show gets to New York, make this the spine of the show.

When Macbeth decided that Duncan's death is his short-cut to the throne, and why he so decided, was never apparent press-night. He and Diane Venora's Lady Macbeth did it because the lines say they did, without a shred of emotion whatsoever. (She, of course, worked on her "Out damned spot" speech, but not the rest of her lines.) One problem with this play is that the lines are absolutely no help here, but Macbeth really ought to seem ambitious instead of merely say so. And the cast, whirling around this vacuum of motivations at its center, have little to push against, and have found no core except saying their speeches. At times, a town crier might be preferable.

But with no intermission and several cuts they race through the show in less than two hours, smashing scenes together so that Banquo seems to set out on a relaxing ride in the park scarce seconds after Duncan's murder, and Birnam Wood arrives Floomp! from the flies as if by magic. As well they might, since those Sisters are mighty magicians in this production, and no armies waste precious time cutting themselves camouflage.

A week or two in Boston before it's outta-the-hat time in The Apple is usually meant to hone and shape and sandpaper the work in front of that oh so intelligent Boston audience. In this case, though, when the show opened the real work had hardly begun.

Love,
===Anon.


"Macbeth" (till 4 June)
COLONIAL THEATRE
106 Boylston Street, BOSTON
1(617) 931-2787

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