BWW Reviews: Stark Naked Theatre's MACBETH is Gloriously Breathtaking
Stark Naked Theatre Company's production of William Shakespeare's MACBETH has been on everybody's lips for weeks, even months, now. As soon as the show was announced a gentle hum of excitement began, and turned into a blistering roar by last night's opening night performance. Co-Executive Directors Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin set the bar high for intimate, independent theatre and consistently surpass audiences' expectations with their astounding productions. Their MACBETH is no different as it splendidly thrilled and delighted last night's eager audience with ease.
In case you aren't familiar, MACBETH is one of Shakespeare's four pure tragedies. It recounts the exploits of Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, as his wife's ambitions mix with his own to hatch a murderous plot. Macbeth ascends to the throne Scotland by murdering the reigning king in his sleep; yet, once that deed is done he himself is unable to sleep and begins a game of endless murders to ensure he can remain ensconced on the throne.
Kevin Holden's direction for the bard's maniacal tale moves at an absorbingly quick pace, running about 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. Before the curtain, Lady Macbeth bathes herself upstage and intrigues the audience. Then, he opens the show with a disorienting panoply of the cast holding daggers that perfectly sets the tone for the production and piques audience interest. Like a scaffold around a building, each scene builds on Kevin Holden's construction, which fascinates the audience and highlights the suspense built into the production. Additionally, he sparingly uses blood in the production, which makes it all the more evocative and powerful when it is seen on stage.
Starring in the titular role, Philip Lehl is a true revelation. He delivers a perfectly brilliant portrayal of Macbeth. Of course, his Macbeth feeds off of his own hubris and ambition. Yet, at the start of the production, his Macbeth is almost innocent and contains a tangibly light and vibrant enthusiasm. As the plot progresses and the blood runs deeper, Philip Lehl takes his Macbeth on a palpably steep arc into exhilarating darkness and the insanity of somnambulism. For example, his portrayal of Macbeth's madness during the banquet scene is mesmerizingly extraordinary.
Kim Tobin's Lady Macbeth is much more loving than I am used to seeing. She crafts a character that knows her husbands flaws and weaknesses, so she knows how to push him to fulfill her own ambitious desires. Kim Tobin delivers each of her remarkable asides and soliloquies with sincere strength and passion. Her Lady Macbeth is never a merciless harridan; instead, she is a strong woman with lofty ambitions and desires. Moreover, she is willing to push her husband however hard she has to ensure her dreams are granted.
As Macduff, David Matranga is phenomenal. He imbues every line and action with realistic and believable emotions. His grief when he discovers his family's demise is substantially touching.
Banquo is excellently played by Jeff McMorrough. He is a fantastic sidekick and accomplice to Macbeth who fortune does not favor. Likewise, he performs Seyton with zeal.
Jack Dunlop does superb work as King Duncan, a clergyman, and a doctor. All three roles are given equal weight by the actor and he differentiates them from one another.
Malcolm is incredibly played by Matt Hune. Moreover, Mat Lents breathes entertaining and engaging life into both his Donalbain and murderer. They both bring believability to every line and enthrall the audience with ease.
Susan Draper, Amy Garner Buchanan, and Regina Ohashi tremendously play the witches. Instead of trying to be overtly terrifying, they play the weird sisters with a notable air of clairvoyant mystery and mysticism. Likewise, these three women do admirable jobs with their other assigned roles.
Elissa Levitt as Lennox, Bobby Hayworth as Ross and a murderer, and Mark Roberts as a sergeant and a porter all do wonderful jobs with their assigned roles as well.
Jodi Bobrovosky's Set Design creates a magnificent militaristic and industrially stark backdrop for this production of MACBETH. Black corrugated steel abounds in the design, with a large black floor on the stage floor and grey floors on the elevated portions of the design.
Jodi Bobrovosky's Prop Design mixes old and new elements, much like her Set Design, to give a timeless feel to the play. Nothing clashes with Shakespeare's writing or feels out of place. Instead, she infuses modernity with the ancient, blending the eras together seamlessly.
David Gipson's Lighting Design makes wondrous use of the steam and fog used in the production to create a menacing ambience that gradually grows more severe as the plot progresses. Each color and light position is pristinely thought out to achieve its maximum effectiveness in aiding tone and mood.
Sound Design by Michael Mullins is astonishingly unnerving. He skillfully uses a myriad of effects and tonal distortions to discomfort the audience and keep us on edge throughout the entire production.
Costume Design by James McDaniel expertly compliments Jodi Bobrovsky and Michael Mullin's design elements, blending materials and cuts for a timeless yet modern approach to the material. Despite all the positives in the Costume Design, Lady Macbeth's last dress for act one was distractingly unflattering.
Stark Naked Theatre Company's resplendently stunning and gloriously breathtaking production of William Shakespeare's MACBETH is sure to be the talk of the town for some time to come. Everything about the production woks together immaculately to dynamically entice and appropriately horrify audiences.
MACBETH runs through June 22, 2013 in Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street, Houston. For more information and tickets, please visit http://www.starknakedtheatre.com or call (832) 866 - 6514.
All Photos by Lynn Lane. Courtesy of Stark Naked Theatre Company.
The cast of MACBETH.
Kim Tobin as Lady Macbeth.
L to R: Regina Ohashi, Amy Garner Buchanan, and Susan Draper as the Weird Sisters.
Philip Lehl as Macbeth.