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    2008-2009 reviews:
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    Walking Shadows

    The Hipgnosis Theatre Company mount a disappointingly lifeless production of Shakespeare's chilling "Macbeth."


    Centuries after its first performance, a good production of Shakespeare's Scottish play is still chilling and terrifying. The script is electric, the characters are unforgettable, and the murders feel real. Rupert Goold's staging last year at BAM was one such production. The witches inhabited an awful hospital. Kate Fleetwood, as Lady Macbeth, underwent a powerful transformation — she was un-womaned, her blood thickened, and then she was irrevocably haunted. True to the original script, no character in that production survived unscathed.

    Company: Hipgnosis Theatre Company.
    Written by: William Shakespeare.
    Directed by: John Castro.
    Cast: Julian Rozzell, Jr. as Macbeth, Elizabeth Mirarchi as Lady Macbeth, Brandon Bennett, Bryn Boice, Nick Brooks, Angelo Clement, Marion Corrales, Brett Essenter, Pharah Jean-Philippe, John Kevin Jones, Pablo Lopez, Tim McCann, Prentice Onayemi , Michael, Ayanna Siverls, Douglas Scott Streater, Rachel Tiemann, Richard Ugino, Jose Vasquez and Amelia Workman..
    Sound design by: Demetrios Bonaros.
    Costumes by: Krista Thomas-Scott.
    Lighting design by: Robert Nguyen.

    Related links: Official site
    Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center
    107 Suffolk St. north of Delancey
    April 3-19, 2009

    Rather than use darkness to invoke a powerfully sinister atmosphere, the Hipgnosis Theatre Company has opted to stage their "Macbeth" on a starkly lit, white vinyl stage, in order to show how "in our urban society, ubiquitous light can be as much a source of terror and nightmare as darkness was in Jacobean England." Early productions of "Macbeth" were performed in natural light, forcing the actors to create the terror of darkness through performance.

    And there's the rub. In any production of Macbeth, high-budget or low-budget, black-lit or white-lit, the sense of menace must come from the electrifying language, and from an ensemble of actors who can truly bring that language to life, fully embodying it as if they are living the tragedy. Anne Carson has said of the role of actors: "They act for you. You sacrifice them to action. And this sacrifice is a mode of deepest intimacy of you with your own life. The actor, by reiterating you, sacrifices a moment of his own life in order to give you a story of yours."

    Unfortunately, despite its arresting lighting, Hipgnosis's production is lackluster. Different members of the cast seem to come from different eras, with different approaches to Shakespeare. A few are stiffly oratorical, while others swallow their lines. Three actors who were wonderful in Young Jean Lee's recent "The Shipment" disappear here. Julian Rozzell, Jr., gives a fine performance as Macbeth, savoring what is unspoken as well as spoken in the script. But Elizabeth Mirarchi's Lady Macbeth is disappointingly flat. She gets the lines right, but never seems fully enter the gruesome experience of that character. It is not an intimate performance, in Carson's sense, and thus the murderous couple at the center of Hipgnosis's production seem to be characters from different plays.

      Unfortunately, despite its arresting lighting, Hipgnosis's production is lackluster.
    Many of us who love theater have seen at least a handful of productions of "Macbeth," or at least read the script. Yet, when I saw Rupert Goold's version, I heard the language in a way I never had before. I lived it. Some of it scared me, some of it shocked me, and some of it made me cry. It wasn't because of riveting lighting, sets, or music, although those touches were brilliant. It was what I saw the actors live out on that stage.

    In contrast, in this Hipgnosis production, lighting notwithstanding, some of the brilliance is lost.

    APRIL 14, 2009

    Reader comments on Macbeth:

  • The lighting notwithstanding!?   from Anonymous, Apr 21, 2009

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