Review Roundup: See What Critics Thought of MAC BETH

Mac Beth

Red Bull Theater presents Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan, The Hunger Games, All The Fine Boys), Ismenia Mendes (CSC's The Liar, Cressida in NYSF's Troilus & Cressida), AnnaSophia Robb ("The Carrie Diaries," "The Act," "Mercy Street," Down A Dark Hall), Sharlene Cruz (Den of Thieves at Harlem Rep), Sophie Kelly-Hedrick (Off-Broadway debut), Lily Santiago (New York Shakespeare Festival's Othello), and Ayana Workman (The Price of Thomas Scott - Mint, Juliet in NYSF's Romeo & Juliet) in Mac Beth, adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt from Shakespeare.

In Schmidt's production seven girls meet up to do a play in an empty lot outside the city on an autumn afternoon. School uniform tartan transforms in this American urban wasteland. The girls are witches, ghosts, and kings. Using only Shakespeare's text, they hurl headlong into the unchecked passions of Macbeth as the line between real life and blood fantasy quickly blurs. Through prophecies and smartphones, unexpected resonances emerge from Shakespeare's dark nightmare of ambition gone awry.

This production will play a limited Off-Broadway engagement May 7th through June 2nd only, with Opening Night set for May 19th. It will follow the company's production of The White Devil.

Mac Beth will have set design by Catherine Cornell, costume design by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, and sound design by Erin Bednarz. This adaptation was given its premiere by Seattle Repertory Theater. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Sara Holdren, Vulture: In director and adaptor Erica Schmidt's new rendition of the Scottish play - here, the title is broken up into Mac Beth-the stage is awash in concept, but the real, visceral stakes of the story at hand can be neither seen nor felt. Schmidt's Mac Beth feels like a gilded picture frame with no picture in it. It's eye-catching, sometimes even tantalizing, but there's a big old doughnut hole in the middle.

Thom Geier, The Wrap: The performances here are so spastic, the line delivery so rapid-fire that not only is Shakespeare's poetry lost but also any sense that these are flesh-and-blood adolescents who have deliberately chosen to act out this ancient play in some grassy field (strikingly designed on a thrust stage by Catherine Cornell). Isabelle Fuhrman's Macbeth comes across as more petulant than conflicted, while Ismenia Mendes' Lady Macbeth joins much of the cast in substituting ever-higher volume for any variation in her line reading.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: We all know things come to a bloody end for Macbeth, and this Mac Beth takes things even further. (Also in those overstuffed backpacks: very large butcher knives.) Whether the extra bit of made-for-Instagram violence works might depend on your tolerance for blood. Or horror flicks. Or it might depend on your knowledge of high school-age young women-a number of whom were at the performance I attended. Clearly, this Mac Beth was on the level.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: Such wonderful Mac Beth hilarity from start to finish, as the participants cling tenaciously to the opportunity for reciting Shakespeare's deathless poetry and prose with voices not yet trained for the challenge but eager to declaim all the same, no matter what flat, lusterless readings taint the air.

David Cote, The Observer: The playing of the lead roles is generally appealing, but uneven. Isabelle Fuhrman's Macbeth, the heaviest lift, is a valiant attempt on a part that's hard going, no matter what your age or gender. Fuhrman can let her eyes go dead and she flattens her tone without losing too much meaning in the verse, and she grows into the bleakness of the tyrant as the show goes on. Ismenia Mendes stays within gender lines as Lady Macbeth, and her line "unsex me here," resonates with menstrual rage, as she digs into her knapsack and tosses a handful of tampons into the grass. In terms of lyrical agility and richness of character, Mendes is the strongest presence on stage; I'd love to see her Lady M. in a less circumscribed production one day.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Equally giggly and grisly, Erica Schmidt's unnerving adaptation of Macbeth for Red Bull Theater features seven young actresses performing Shakespeare's tragedy as uniform-clad schoolgirls in an abandoned lot. The language is mostly the Shakespeare's, albeit pared down to one whirlwind act. The sensibility, however, is decidedly contemporary, as these hyperactive drama queens get lost in a gruesome fantasy world that casts some of them as villains and others as victims.

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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