Backstage Review: New World Shakespeare Company’s “Macbeth”

Forget Freddie and Jason, Macbeth is history’s scariest killer, and he’s back in Salt Lake just in time for Halloween.

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After more than 400 years of analysis and interpretation and expectation, taking on Shakespeare is always a tough task, but New World Shakespeare Company’s post-apocalyptic production of The Tragedy of Macbeth was a modern, chilling examination of ambition and madness in a world where society has failed.

Director DRU pulled together some great actors and designers to realize this lawless, near-future world with a vaguely steam-punk feel, and with the exception of a few weak points, they were very successful in doing so.

mac2Costume and set design (by Anna Marie Coronado and Dustin Kennedy, respectively) felt organic and synergistic, and both shared an attention to detail that truly created a cohesive world for the actors to navigate. The rusted, found object feel of the simple set worked beautifully with the piecemeal costumes and expertly drawn facial scars. Actors carried machetes and clubs and, every once in a while, a precious gun. Their weapons were things you would find in a zombie movie, the last means of protection and self-definition and a world that is barely clinging to its fractured social structure. The king’s subjects wore squares of blue and white striped cloth on their ratted clothes. A single abstract painting of blood and chaos hung on the back wall. The witches brewed their florescent purple potion in an oil drum and networks of intricate black lines tattooed the witch goddess Hecate’s (Olivia Vessel) face. Scores of these small, important choices summed up to realism within the confines of the small auditorium in the Leonardo.

The actors also formed a nice ensemble. Catherine McMillen’s arc as Lady Macbeth was beautifully executed. She’s fun to hate as she wields her sexuality like a weapon and manipulates her husband into murder, but when she slowly crumbles under guilt and regret, her tragic vulnerability is equally honest. It’s hard to pin down Lady M’s special brand of crazy, but McMillen did a lovely job. Special shout-outs are also deserved by the creeptastic witches (Blayne Wiley, Camilla Laib, and Melissa Cecala), Olivia Vessel’s Hecate, and Leticia Minharo’s completely badass genderbending Banquo. The witches were a perfect trio of scavanging homeless led by a completely on-point Vessel, and Banquo was not only passionate but complex. As a woman interpreting a role written for a man, Leticia Minharo stormed the stage. Still, the most heartwenching moment in the show came when Macduff (Jeff Stintson) received the news of his family’s murder. His fury and grief were palpable.

There were a couple weaknesses. Duncan’s two sons (Todd Woolston and Dustin Kennedy) fell a bit flat for me, and, Eric Leckman’s Macbeth was a mixed bag. He had some utterly awesome, utterly terrifying, utterly wicked moments, but at times toward the end he had some trouble carrying crucial scenes and committing to the logic of his madness.

All in all, NWSC puts on good Shakespeare with some great machetes. So, if you find your way to the Leonardo Museum (209 E 500 S) this Halloween weekend, go see Shakespeare’s bloodthirsty thane-turned-king running amok.

The Tragedy of Macbeth runs this Thursday through Sunday, October 31-November 3. Tickets are available at the door or online (http://www.newworldshakespearecompany.com) for $15.00.

About Jean Ansolabehere

Jean Ansolabehere is a writer, director, stage manager, school librarian and lapsed Catholic from Los Angeles, CA.
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