BWW Reviews: Eklektix Theatre's MACBETH Shows Strong Potential But Falls a Bit Short
More often than not, theatres produce Shakespeare with a unique, modernizing spin. Keeping in this vein, Eklektix Theatre's Artistic Director Bryan-Keyth Wilson has adapted William Shakespeare's tragedy MACBETH, setting it in a post apocalyptic urban wasteland in the year 3013. Likewise, Bryan-Keyth Wilson, in adapting the play, has made some cuts to the script, which ensure that William Shakespeare's script about betrayal, murder, vanity, paranoia, and madness moves at a break-neck pace.
Direction by Bryan-Keyth Williams expertly captures the violence inherent in the show. For example, upon killing King Duncan, Macbeth enters carrying two blood soaked daggers. In a similar fashion, Banquo's ghost is splashed with blood and has a nice prosthetic gash placed on his neck during the banquet opening of the second act. The audience quickly understands and is reminded that the play is occurring in brutal and savage times. Where I find fault with the direction is that some of the brooding and more introspective elements of the show did not read as well as I would have liked. Often, I found that characterization was rushed, leaving me with a good recitation of perfectly memorized lines without the playing and emotional aspects of such stylized and weighty theatre. The decision to bring a Shakespearean piece to life on stage is ambitious regardless of who is doing it. Even though it is written in English, performing Shakespearean dialogue is like performing in a foreign language. One must first learn the language, then one has to play with, experiment, and find personal resonance and meanings in the language before they can accurately convey each line to the audience. Regarding this, I feel that more rehearsal time could have vastly benefited this production. To me, it seemed that the actors simply needed more time to really delve into the meaning of what they were saying, explore that together, play with that on stage, and then bring in an audience.
Kyle Crawford stars in the demanding titular role. He verbalizes the Shakespearean dialogue with a pragmatic urgency that brings subtle life into the character. Whether it is his young age or a lack of rehearsal time, his overall performance was not dynamic enough for my tastes. When dealing with the three weird sisters, I wanted him to be more exuberantly arrogant and demanding. On the other hand, he does bring a tangible air to Macbeth's paranoia. Macbeth is not an easy role for any actor to perform, but Kyle Crawford shows a lot of effort and charisma in his portrayal. There is no doubting that he knows his lines, but his performance left me wondering what he, as the artist playing the role, felt the lines meant to his character in that particular moment.
Playing Lady Macbeth, Ornella Ashcraft approaches the role in a way that I have never seen before. For me, her portrayal was similar to Deborah Cox's interpretation of Lucy in JEKYLL & HYDE. Sexuality radiated from her good looks and sexualized dress, but like Kyle Crawford I was not always convinced that Ornella Ashcraft understood why her character was saying or doing what she was in every moment of the production. Each line was delivered without missing a beat, but at times the lines came across more as pure recital than as emotionally weighted dialogue.
Tasha Lockett, Lindsey M. Page, and Libby Hart played the three weird sisters among other characters. These women fully committed to making their witch stand apart from the others, creating a confusing lack of uniformity in their coven. For example, Libby Hart's witch hums, Lidsey M. Page's witch hisses, and Tasha Lockett's witch laughs. While these choices allowed the audience to be unnerved by the characters, it didn't seem to have a reason to exist beyond that. Moreover, Libby Hart's witch utilizes organic materials, such as feathers, into her portrayal. Confusingly though, she is the only character in the whole play to use or have anything organic. This made her stand out and stand alone in the production. Another element that was confusing was when the women stepped out of their witch roles and into the roles of servant, soldier, doctor, or murderer they still maintained some of their witchy attributes, such as Libby Hart's humming or Lindsey M. Page's rubbing the top of her hand. These behaviors stood out as awkward, especially considering Macbeth is descending into madness because of his paranoia; therefore, it would seem that these behaviors would be off-putting to him and he may not react favorably to such behaviors. While I commend the creativity and the desire to bring unique characterization to parts that can so often be relegated to clichés, I think some more dialogue needed to happen behind the sense regarding these choices and ironing them out so that they were consistently purposeful and meaningful.
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