Saturday, July 16, 2011

Marin Shakespeare: "Macbeth": ☼ ☼ ☼

"A drum, a drum, Macbeth doth come." From the mouths of the Scottish royalty tumble one famous phrase after another, many of which have embedded themselves in our everyday English language. Flawed Macbeth and evil Lady Macbeth, loyal Banquo and the batty three witches are characters we know as well as any in all literature. As we hear "out, damned spot," "double double, toil and trouble," and "the milk of human kindness" we shake our heads and marvel at how one man could have had so much influence on the way we speak to our world.

And then, when Opening Night is over, the voice of the asp whispers in our ear: if this weren't Shakespeare, if "Macbeth" had been written by the unheralded Joe Plotnik, would we be gushing so over a plot where character development is nil and there are only one emotion (anguish), one motivation (revenge) and one action (slaughter)?

Well, if Mr. Plotnik had written "false face must hide what the false heart doth know" or "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," we probably would.

How many tens and tens of thousands of Macbeths, of Banquos, of King Duncans have there been? For our money, Marin Shakespeare's William Elsman is the craziest Macbeth yet. Under Lesley Schisgall Currier's direction, Elsman infuses Macbeth with great power and presence, but there is little underneath. The eternal question of why a noble Lord would travel so quickly from successful general in battle... ambition-fueled insanity...

...must be answered not by words but by the actor's performance. A Macbeth this pathological gives us no clue and therefore little to pity.

Darren Bridgett's Banquo is loyal and solid, Alexandra Matthew's Lady Macbeth is evil incarnate at the outset (but strangely passive as time goes on) and Scott Coopwood's Macduff makes us all think that he's the only thane with a brain, the guy we would follow into battle. After all, he with the strongest voice and most dynamic stage presence should be King, shouldn't he?

In the supporting roles, James Hiser's murdering presence is perfectly drawn as well as Madeline Harris's Seyton and Third Witch.

Abra Berman's costumes are fine, as is Mark Robinson's spartan set design. It all comes down to what you think of Macbeth, the man who would be King, and then is, and then isn't. And as for his wife: "look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent underneath."

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards Marin Shakespeare's "Macbeth" Three Stars. It's hard to beat listening to fine actors performing classic Shakespeare, while sitting outside in a small, wooded amphitheatre. Macbeth is not King Lear or even Anthony and Cleopatra. But it grabs you, if only by the majesty of its language.

Marin Shakespeare
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University
1475 Grand Avenue, San Rafael
Through Aug. 14


notthatlucas said...

Joe Plotnik?

Anonymous said...

I loved the show, and Lady Macbeth was played by Alexandra Matthew.

Anonymous said...

Much laughter at preview performance...

Anonymous said...

This production is awful. Marin and Shakespeare are ill served. Fine actors were not directed to plum their or the script's depths. Lines were said clearly but without meaning or build. 'Conceptual' add-ons were awful and superfluous and got in the way of Shakespeare and how simply powerful this play can be. Actor playing McDuff (self-directed?)was really good and brought up actors in scenes with him. MacBeth had no character arc or development. Lady M and Banquo were miscast and sadly weak. Lighting showed no imagination with what they have and did not serve to help play.
And this is one of their better productions. ...