BWW Review: Something Edited This Way Comes as John Doyle Directs Corey Stoll, Nadia Bowers in MACBETH
"When shall we three meet again?" the eight weird sisters ask each other in unison at the outset of director John Doyle's Classic Stage Company production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, shaved down to 100 minutes.
Perhaps we're not expected to take things too literally in this mounting, like when the bald and slightly stubble-faced title character speaks of how the "horrid image doth unfix my hair," or when his wife demands he give her his dagger just before she walks away from him and picks it up from off the floor.
But minor quirks aside, there's much to be enjoyed from the performances of its solid nine-member company, many of whom play multiple roles, sometimes crossing over gender boundaries.
The action is played on a long wooden platform, designed by Doyle, with the audience seated on three sides and a large wooden throne, the only set piece, placed at the fourth. Ann Hould-Ward's costumes nicely replicate the look of Middle Ages Scotland, with subtle use of tartan.
Corey Stoll certainly cuts a physically imposing figure as Macbeth, the honored general who, after being advised by three of this production's octet of witches that he will someday rule as King of Scotland, proceeds with a bloody climb to the top at the urging of his ambitious spouse. But he's also presented as a rather casual, nearly soft-spoken fellow, who, prompted by one witch's further pronouncement that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth," develops a snarky arrogance as he approaches his goal and is even given to a childish temper-tantrum an one point. It's only towards the end, aided by Thomas Schall's brutal fight direction, that we see him as a merciless warrior.
If there's any extra spark between he and Nadia Bowers, who plays Lady Macbeth, it could be because they are married in real life. Bowers is an attention-grabbing fury in her role, attacking the language masterfully in a light Scottish accent (the only member of the company who uses it) and bringing out clashing textures in a woman who lusts for her man, but will willingly shame him to satisfy her lust for power. Her portrayal of the character's descent into madness is wonderfully chilling to witness.
Admired stage veteran Mary Beth Peil adds to her long list of superb performances as a quietly dignified King Duncan and Erik Lochtefeld gives a charming, poetic turn as Banquo, who is targeted by the title character after it's predicted by the witches that he will be the future father of a line of kings. There are fine contributions throughout by Barbara Walsh (Ross), Raffi Barsoumian (Malcolm), Barzin Akhavan (Macduff), N'Jameh Camara (Lady Macduff) and Antonio Michael Woodard (Young Macduff).
Newcomers to the play may find some of the multiple casting confusing and those more familiar with it may find the cuts make it seem a bit rushed (the pacing slows down considerably in the final third), but the good work of The Ensemble Company, highlighted by Bowers' commanding excellence, helps make this Macbeth worth a visit.