BWW Reviews: Main Street Theater & Prague Shakespeare Company's MACBETH is Wickedly Thrilling
Following last year's well-received and highly praised production of HENRY V, Main Street Theater and Prague Shakespeare Company have teamed up again to produce William Shakespeare's MACBETH. This particular production of the beloved play premiered on November 7, 2013 at Divadlo Kolowrat in Prague, Czech Republic. For this version of MACBETH, the play is condensed to an 80-minute one act and the plot moves with breakneck speeds through the familiar tale of witches, ambition, murder, and destruction.
Guy Roberts, Artistic Director of Prague Shakespeare Company, certainly knows his Shakespeare. In trimming down MACBETH, he retains the essential elements of the story; however, he cuts characters and full scenes without hesitation. For those, like myself, who enjoy unabridged approaches to William Shakespeare's plays, this is most disconcerting. Yet, even I have to admit that once the 80 minute production ended, I only missed the excised bits because of my familiarity with the play, not because they were necessary to understand this dark tale.
Directing MACBETH, Guy Roberts makes some fascinating choices that amp up the eerie qualities of the story and keep the audience attending to action unfolding. Two concentric circles are painted in white on the black floor of the stage, outlining the playing space for line deliveries. Outside these circles are the visible wings of the production, where a chorus of nine weird sisters waits to interact with the leading cast. Interestingly enough, it seems that Guy Roberts' witches have summoned forth specters of the characters to relive this tragedy, as the chorus hauntingly joins in on the deliveries of key words and phrases during soliloquies like children quoting lines from their favorite films. They whisper and hiss these lines in the darkness, watching what unfolds within the circles with the same rapt attention as the audience.
As Macbeth, Guy Roberts begins the show as a youthful thane who gets his first tastes of ambition when the witches curiously proclaim him as "Thane of Glamis," his current title at the show's opening, "Thane of Cawdor," and say that he shall "be King hereafter." He is named Thane of Cawdor immediately following the disappearance of the withes from the play's action, and his own ambition begins to slowly erode the man. It is in the erosion of the character that Guy Roberts showcases his brilliance as an actor. He has sincere trepidations about murdering King Duncan, but does so because he is wooed by the prophecy spun by the witches. After he kills Duncan, he begins his restless life as King of Scotland, shedding more and more blood to keep his grip firmly on the Scottish crown. As an audience, we see how the growing number of murders wears him down and how his pride makes him blind to his own downfall.
Jessica Boone plays Lady Macbeth with skillful power. She delivers the key monologues in a way that fits with this production and still gives audiences everything they have come to expect from each significant moment. Jessica Boone ensures that her Lady Macbeth is full of ambition as well, pushing Macbeth to follow through with the plans they have made to murder King Duncan and become Scotland's ruling family. Like her husband, she is deeply troubled and haunted by the murder of the king, which brings on her own madness. In Jessica Boone's capable hands, the audience is gifted with a Lady Macbeth who shatters and folds under pressure. With Guy Roberts' staging of Jessica Boone's exit from the stage and her riveting performance leading up to that moment, the audience truly feels the tragic weight of Lady Macbeth's demise.
In this streamlined production, the other named characters retained are significantly reduced and serve to move the story forward. Even with the trimming, Jared Doreck as Malcolm, Peter Hosking as Duncan, Charles Frederick Secrease as Macduff, and Jeff Smith as Banquo all deliver performances worthy of mention. Each creates a purposeful and memorable character. Standout moments from this group are Jeff Smith as the ghost of Banquo at the dinner party and Charles Frederick Secrease's gut wrenching agony when he learns that Macbeth has had his wife and son killed.