Friday, January 23, 2009

Shotgun's Macbeth

Thursday night I took BART to Berkeley & caught Macbeth presented by the Shotgun Players. Due to word of mouth, it's been playing to sold-out houses, & the run has been extended through next week.

This is a modern dress production with a mostly young cast. I would describe them as being more effective physical actors than verbal actors. Blythe Foster as Lady Macbeth makes her entrance strutting around the stage like one of the Fly Girls & immediately establishes herself as hot, young & over-confident. I'm sure this is only the Lady Macbeth who does a one-handed cartwheel!

The on-stage murders are the most striking parts of the show. They are explicit & gory without overreaching & often have piquant touches of humor. The murder of Duncan, which normally occurs off-stage, is presented here as a dream-like dumb show. Most of the victims are dispatched by a single murderer, played by Kevin Clarke as a remorseless, psychopathic killing machine. The murder of Banquo was graphic enough to make the audience groan.

The supernatural aspect of the play is dropped altogether. The 3 weird sisters are collapsed into a single camp follower scuttling around the action. Macbeth's visions have clearly psychological sources. His 2nd encounter with the witches is replaced by a disjointed scene in which Lady Macbeth ingests various substances, writhes on the floor & mouths the prophecies. This caused one audience member to get an uncontrollable case of the giggles.

The show has a loud sound design of thumping house music, sword clangs, & rumblings that you could feel through the floor. It was better than Sensurround. In the final scene of the play, a bunch of pointed tree trunks emerge horizontally through the back of the set. I'm not sure this idea works.

Shotgun Players looks to be a hardscrabble organization. Just before the 2nd half, there was a drawing for a poster autographed by the cast & a Peet's coupon. After the final bows, the oldest actor in the cast, speaking with a polite English accent, asked us for additional donations. Well, it's hard times, & they say Cressida was a beggar.

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