In Shakespeare’s tragedies, politics and fealty are thread with dark warnings of power’s corruptive force and the destructiveness of human hubris. This is never more true than in Macbeth, a story of greed, secret plotting, and murder at the highest levels. It is apt, then, that director Jef Hall-Flavin’s current production (playing at Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage through April 9th) invokes a dystopian setting, playing on a current literary trend that mirrors many similar portents.
The design of the show—more Mad Max than ancient Scotland—is heavily stylized and accentuates the show’s chilling and nihilistic violence. This production provides a visceral experience through constant reminders of the dangers that lurk in the shadows (lighting design by Micheal P. Kittel), a nifty use of mirrors to conjure ghostly figures (set design by Joseph Stanley), as well as cinematic musical cues and a cacophony of eerie offstage sounds (musical composition and sound design by Evan Middlesworth).
That is not to say this show does not pay proper homage to The Bard’s wordplay, for even at an abridged 90 minutes (adapted by director Hall-Flavin), the show does well to capture Macbeth’s sly deceptions and inner turmoil. This is in large part due to clean blocking and clear direction of the ensemble, who deliver their pentameter with a strong understanding of its import. The smaller venue also helps the audience understand each tic and glance. And while coloring the witches with religious imagery as they drive the plot with their prophecies doesn’t quite resonate, the source material proves strong enough to withstand this minor misfire.
Michael Ooms provides a testosterone-fueled Macbeth who seems to be driven as much by his loins as his ego. What is initially seen as magnanimity is quickly confirmed to be vainglory. It is an impressive turn, even if Ooms does occasionally embellish a bit too much in the cyclonic force of the wordplay.
Vanessa Wasche’s Lady Macbeth matches her counterpart’s drive and first commands the stage and her husband as a determined and covetous figure and later mirrors his growing paranoia and guilt, particularly in an arresting delivery of one of the show’s most well known monologues (“Out, damned spot!”). The supporting players are also very good and rarely miss a beat, but special attention must be paid to Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, who uses his distinct ability as a performer to inject goodwill and endearing magnetism into the part of Banquo, making his fate all the more tragic.
On the whole, this is a sleek and engaging rendition of a classic play. And with its truncated form, this Macbeth can also serve as a great introduction to Shakespeare’s tragedies, particularly for those who enjoy a good parry (well-choreographed swordplay by Doug Scholz-Carlson) or have a penchant for horror and blood.
David and Chelsea Berglund review movies on their site Movie Matrimony.