BWW Review: Raucous Fun in Ghost Light's MACBETT but Lacks Levels
It's fine to be in the audience's face and have a scene's energy turned up to 11 but when you do it for the entire play, it gets tiring. That's the issue with Ghost Light Theatricals' current production of "Macbett". Sure it's an absurdist comedy piece but they can have levels too and without them, by the end of the play you wish they'd stop yelling at you.
Based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth" we live in the land ruled by the tyrannical King Duncan and Lady Duncan (Matthew Middleton and Madison Jade Jones). There's some dissention in the land and so when there's trouble, the King sends his army under the leadership of his two best generals Macbett and Banco (Chris Shea and Darien Marcel Upshaw) to take care of things. Once the revolt is squashed the King promises Macbett and Banco riches and land but only follows through with Macbett. Enter two scheming witches (Jones and Elizabeth Wu) who plant ideas in the General's heads of overthrowing the King which results in a series of betrayal and jealousy.
It's certainly a timely play as we currently live in a country where its people are probably the most divided they've ever been and with a leader who's adept at manipulating. Although this particular play was written by Eugene Ionesco in the 70's so you have to wonder if he knew something we didn't or maybe it's just that politicians never change.
Whatever the case, a look through Ionescu's absurdist lens is always fun and the use of modern language to convey A VERY OLD story only adds to that. Director Emily Harvey has the cast in quite the absurdist vein but the problem is that it's a little too much of a good thing combined with an inconsistent pace. This may start off fun but ends up wearing. This is coupled with a lighting design from Mary Heffernan that is at best moody and at worst just plain dark. I would suggest the production team step back from the images they have in their head and take a look at the show from the point of view of the audience.
The cast manages some shining moments. Shea is quite fun in the role especially when he's being manipulated by the sultry Jones who keeps the tone quite sexy but still manages an underlying air of the schemer. Upshaw is passable as the overlooked Banco but needs to commit to the character and the tone more and really needs to enunciate. And Middleton is hilarious as the foppish King afraid of his own shadow and turns in some great physical comedy.
On the whole it's a good show with a few obstacles keeping it from being great. And so with my three letter rating system I give Ghost Light Theatricals' production of "Macbett" and enjoyable yet frustrated MEH+. Sure it's fun to laugh at the King but even that can get old.
"Macbett" from Ghost Light Theatricals performs at the Ballard Underground through March 25th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.ghostlighttheatricals.org.