>ASC: Macbeth

>This is the third (or fourth?) time I’ve seen Macbeth done by the American Shakespeare Center at the Blackfriars Playhouse. This time, we’re in the Actors’ Renaissance Season, which means the five plays currently under production were put together with no state direction and little rehearsal (although I waited until mid-way through the season to start going, so by now the actors have their stuff mostly together).

This production could almost be billed as “Macbeth: The Musical.” The company is known for its musical performances before the show and during interludes, but here several songs were worked into the play itself. If there was anything I didn’t like about this production, that would be it. One of my favorite aspects of Macbeth is the Weird Sisters and the weirder and darker they are the better. I don’t buy it when they join a chorus line around the cauldron as they summon Banquo’s ghost. Then there was the moment just before the famous banquet scene (the one where Macbeth’s cracks are really beginning to show and Banquo’s ghost first appears) when Macbeth serenades Lady Macbeth. This was made all the odder because Benjamin Curns, who plays Macbeth, has a beautiful voice and the musicality of the song just seemed wrong.

But otherwise, this is a fine production, one that last night’s audience seemed to enjoy. It’s also fast-paced, sometimes a little too fast, maybe. The performances are excellent. Curns as Macbeth is very good. He’s sometimes a little uneven, but he is masterful in the most important (or at least its most famous) speech, and that was enough for me:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I also liked Allison Glenzer as Lady Macbeth and Gregory Jon Phelps as Macduff. Alyssa Wilmoth as Malcolm I might want to be more assertive. In the scene where Macduff pleads with Malcolm to return to Scotland, the important dialogue about Malcolm’s false claims is all but lost, and Malcolm’s final speech, in which he transforms all the Thanes into Earls and brings the play to a close, also could be stronger.

Even with a few faults, though, it’s another fine evening of theater. I’m looking forward to seeing the other shows of the season, although I’ll have to hurry since there’s only a month left: Volpone, Cymbeline, The Jew of Malta , and The Witch.

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