Stylized Shakespeare

Staging and sets serve this updated version of Macbeth well at Main Street



Ingrid Allstrom

Senior Staff Writer

Giving Shakespeare a new twist without changing the dialogue (and making every high school English teacher angry) is probably the biggest challenge Main Street Theater faces in its production of Macbeth.

They manage to give Macbeth a modern theme and contemporary feel without altering the aesthetic drama that Shakespeare wrote into the play.

For those who didn't read Macbeth in high school (and for all those who have forgotten), it is a story of an ambitious noble named Macbeth (Joel Sandel) and his even more ambitious wife (Nathalie Cunningham) who kill the king of Scotland to take the throne.

They are encouraged by three prophesizing witches, who are in essence the mystery of Macbeth.

Are the witches simply telling the future or are they only playing on Macbeth's vanity and greed to their own end?

In MST's production, the witches are seemingly part of a greater plot rather than indifferent soothsayers. All three are played with strength and authority, and each actress plays multiple parts.

Macbeth seems very self-determined rather than a hapless, slightly ambitious man who falls prey to fate.

Whereas Lady Macbeth is usually portrayed as the driving force behind Macbeth's ambitions, in MST's production she is weak. Usually, the tone suggests that Macbeth can hold everything together until his wife is gone, and suddenly everything falls apart.

The costumes are not at all traditional, adding to the contemporary tone. Instead of royal attire, the nobles wear tattered blue jeans, and the children are dressed in rags.

Costume designer Margaret White uses the incongruous clothing to support the metaphorical connection between the time of the action and the present.

The set is modern as well, and suggests a city ravaged by war. Macbeth's castle is a shack, and the witches kettle is a garbage can. Graffiti lines the walls, and an overturned wooden fence serves as a royal table, stage and battlefield.

As Macbeth, Sandel is powerful, but he does not portray the tragedy of his character. Instead of pity, the audience will feel disdain for him.

Curtis Billings is chilling as Banquo, Macbeth's one-time friend who Macbeth eventually murders. When Banquo's ghost visits Macbeth's dinner table, he is truly disturbing.

One of the best performances is given by Amanda Henkel, who plays one of the witches. Her transition from one character to another is flawless, and she is able to make momentary switches from her evil witch persona.

The most disturbing and saddening part is the famous "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy delivered by Macbeth when his plotting begins to fall apart.

Instead of including it as it was meant to be - as a part of the action - they change the lighting, clear the stage, and he delivers it by himself sitting in a corner.

By far the best parts of MST's Macbeth are the fight scenes. For a small theater, the choreography is amazing. Even from very close, the kills are dramatic and (aside from one amusing blood effect) very realistic.

Macbeth will be playing through Nov. 23 with shows Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. There will be no showing Nov. 13 or 14. Tickets are $11 to $13 with discounts for students.

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