BWW Review: MACBETH: REVISITED Brilliantly Updates Shakespeare's Tragic Tale of Power, Greed, and the Blood-Thirst for Ambition
Culver City residents Jeannine and Jack Stehlin are celebrating the 21st anniversary season of their New American Theatre Production Company by presenting MACBETH: REVISITED, directed by and starring Jack Stehlin in the title role with choreography and sound design by John Farmanesh-Bocca. Last year, this team of two brilliant production designers brought the award-winning Tempest Redux to the Odyssey Theatre, with mind-blowing choreography enabling the classic tale to resonant with modern audiences.
Their great skill working together is again gracing a local stage at SacRed Fools on Hollywood's Theatre Row, featuring a gender-bending cast of company members who tell Shakespeare's tale of power, greed, and the blood-thirst for ambition - all in a roughly 95-minute theatrical journey.
For those not familiar with the tragic tale of what happens when, after being prompted by supernatural predictions, Scottish warrior Macbeth colludes with his wife to murder his way onto the throne, be prepared for what happens next in this cautionary tale of prophesy, unchecked power and free will. But rather than having to sit for hours watching the tale play out with its numerous scene changes, this intimate re-telling is a bare-boned presentation with media, few costume changes, a few set pieces moved about to create different settings, all done in two colors tones - black and shockingly bright magenta.Says Stehlin, "'Revisited' emphasizes our need not only as theatre artists but as a community to tell this story once again. The hope is that perhaps this time we will discover a way to break the cycle of fear and narcissism that brings us to violence and inhumanity towards each other. This reckoning can only come with the responsibility of self-determination, not as victim of circumstance. To that end, we are also exploring status quo gender norms in an effort to recognize our full potential as a society of humankind." Certainly today's political climate warrants this tale of unchecked power to be retold in a way to appeal to younger members of society who will wind up taking over the reins in the near future, as well as for those fans of currently fans of the blood-thirsty monarch and his over-bearing wife who urges him on to greater political heights. As played by Vanessa Waters, Lady Macbeth is the power behind the warrior and soon to be throne, her ambition just as great as her husband's in the need for domination over others. Stehlin portrays Macbeth as putty in her hands, or should I say mind, as she maneuvers him to use his battlefield skills on many of his closest allies in order to claim the throne never meant to be his by royal succession. As the show prepares to begin, we first meet the three Witches, played to perfection by 3 men (Brendan Brandt, Dennis Gersten, Jordan Lund), whose very breath sends in evil winds, with Farmanesh-Bocca's use of intriguing, ensemble movements foreshadowing the mayhem that is about to blow into town. By the time we meet the cast of characters soon to be at odds with each other due to the Macbeth duo's shenanigans, especially Duncan (David Purdham), Malcolm (Jade Sealey), Banquo (Susan Ziegler), and Ross (varda appleton), the plot thickens with the dark set design by Robert Broadfoot and mood-enhancing lighting design by Derrick McDaniel paired with the often shocking sound design and effects by Farmanesh-Bocca and Nick Pavey, paving the way into the heart of Shakespeare's tragedy.
The only drawback in comprehending the story, even for those familiar with the play's plot and characters, may occur with so many women playing men's roles with every cast member dressed only in black. Of course, this way of presenting the show puts the focus on the dialogue, all of which is presented in ways which allow the story to remain true and honest to its original intent. This is especially true for Stehlin's all-encompassing portrayal of Macbeth, with his bulging eyes and vocal power perfectly suited to the going-mad King. Take note those studying the art of acting - here is your chance to again see a master of the art at work onstage!
MACBETH: REVISITED runs April 8 - May 13 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm. There will be one 5pm performance on Sunday, May 9. Venue is The Second Stage at SacRed Fools Theater, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Tickets, ($15-$35) can be purchased at NewAmericanTheatre.com or at the door before each performance, based on availability.
Photo credit: Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin