Thursday, July 26, 2007

More on Macbeth

I'm heading out to see Henry V for the second time tonight and will write more about that after doing so. The Jackson Citizen-Patriot called it "exhilarating" and I'm inclined to agree with the critic. However, that's worthy of a link and a more in-depth discussion once I've seen the show again. Ah, if only a critic could have the luxury to see every show more than once.

But for now, back to Macbeth.

Macbeth can be a challenging show to put on because it has been done so often. Everyone who does it wants to leave his or her own thumbprint on the production. Sometimes that's effective, sometimes it isn't.

There are several creative touches in this production--though I won't claim they are "new" just that they are different and can be classified as nontraditional. The Michigan Shakespeare Festival production places a lot of emphasis on the supernatural. It's something that makes sense historically. King James, for whom this show was written, had a fascination with the occult. He was a true believer and explored witchcraft with a great fervor. It's an aspect of Shakespeare's play that would have held great appeal to him.

This show makes the Weird sisters three war widows--though that is purely subtext and not at all overt. They're young, sexy women who have a pervasive presence in the show. They're less manipulators than encouragers. They've taken a hand in the action, but they don't steal away free will.

This lends itself to quite a few visual treats. The costume and scenic design is par excellence. The show is heavy in blacks and silvers with splashes of color that make things pop out. If anyone had any doubt that Cory Reiger is a costume genius, they should go see this show. His work in this and Henry V is just phenomenal.

Another non-traditional aspect of this show is the treatment of the Macduff-Malcolm and Lady Macduff scenes. The director, John Neville-Andrews, split the two scenes so that they both occurred on the stage at the same time in a series of interjects that bounce between the two scenes. It gives you more time to care about the people who are about to be murdered and the heavy toll it takes on Macduff (nor does it hurt that the family is brought out in the first act and the audience is able to witness the affectionate, playfulness between family members). I have always enjoyed Paul Molnar's acting and his performance as Macduff when he learns of his family's slaughter has brought tears to my eyes every night.

The show's "soundtrack" is also incredibly well-done. The composer used "found" instruments such as glass jars, chains, garbage bins, and other items to create music that is played throughout the show. Three different actors rotate in and out, playing the different themes that create an eerie feel to the show. It's music that is so well-done that it almost slips into your sub-conscious. You forget you're listening to music, but it puts you right where the director wants you.

Perhaps the greatest beauty of this production of Macbeth is that everything works so well together. Every aspect--costumes, scenery, acting, directing--has been given passionate attention making the show a stunning experience.

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