Monday, September 16, 2019

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 196, A Review: "Macbeth" (The Brookfield Theatre For the Arts)

By James V. Ruocco

" a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."
(William Shakespeare, "Macbeth")

And, so it begins.

William Shakespeare wrote "Macbeth" between 1605 and 1606 in what is commonly referred to as "his dark period."


It's all here waiting to be explored, dissected and bandied about in scholarly, exhaustive, unstressed fashion with witches, prophecies, slayings, hand-scrubbing, apparitions, beheadings and crimson-drenched blood securing its horror show craziness and conceptual madness.

The Brookfield Theatre For the Arts production of  "Macbeth" brings the clock-ticking brutalism and atmospheric eeriness of the story right onto the stage itself with plenty of suspense, shock, coolness and pathos, all of which is intelligently rendered with a daring, energized mindset that proves rewarding from start to finish. Re-cut and re-imagined to fit a 100-minute time frame, this "Macbeth" sizzles with in-your-face ambition, corruption and tension that never falters for a second. Elsewhere, the closeness between actor and audience (a plus at this location) heightens the play's bloodcurdling appeal amid the precise, inventive cacophony of Shakespeare's words, moments, meltdowns, observations, chants and power plays.

Then and now, the play begins with the brief appearance of three witches who tell the inquisitive Macbeth that one day he will become King of Scotland. Encouraged by his wife to make this royal position an immediate reality, he kills the King, takes the crown and throne, then  kills and kills again out of guilt and paranoia until he realizes he is doomed and finally submits to his enemy.

The psychological intrigue, collective madness, downward spirals and bloody savagery that is "Macbeth" is carried out in bold, thrilling, intense fashion - the kind that toys with your senses and leaves you breathless - by English-born director Jane Farnol whose credits include "All My Sons," "Quartet," "Exit the King," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Medea," "The Laramie Project" and "The Elephant Man." Upfront, this is a very layered, important, involved dramatic work that requires someone well-versed in the mechanics, structure and storytelling techniques set forth by Shakespeare, its angered showdowns, its long and mannered conversations, its diverse characterizations, its opaque plotlines and page-by-page dramatics.
Not to worry, though. Farnol handles all of this ferocious pain and angst with the grace, skill, imagination and knowledge gained from years of study at The Royal Academy of Art in London. Every moment of this "Macbeth" is so carefully etched, explored and designed, the moments fly swiftly and fluidly from one scene to the next with a deft flourish and involved design that works to the play's advantage. Extraneous parts of the story are missing here and there, but never once does this "Macbeth" seem truncated or at odds with the the director's choice, beat-by-beat editing.   

What's impressive about Farnol's work in this production is the honesty, realness, rawness and compassion she brings to this telling of this oft-told tale. It's all laid out with the purpose, stamina and wild theatrics the story demands. But things are never rushed or taken for granted. Here, you get a taut, explosive examination of the Bard's famous tragedy that masterfully draws you into the drama, its demons, its internal conflicts, its treachery, its repercussions and its articulate nastiness.
It's a well-orchestrated game plan infused by smart, apt blocking maneuvers that includes entrances and exits up and down the aisles of the theater's intimate working space, moody music and lighting cues, lively sword fights and the implementation of widescreen projection Technicolor cinematography (amazingly timed and photographed by Stephen Cihanek) involving the appearance and disappearance of the three witches who taunt and tease Macbeth with their eerie chants and prophecies. 

To be asked to play the lead role of Macbeth in Shakespeare's iconic tragedy is a coup for any actor and David Regelmann's descent into madness, murder and paranoia has a quicksilver charge, pathos and broken dynamic about it that allows him to dig deep into the character's complicated persona, his extreme behavior, his dark heart, his tormented delusions and believable bloodlust. It's a significant, ambitious portrait of memory fraught with real strength and honesty, anchored by line delivery with great clarity, scope and cynicism that reflects the character's sense of restlessness, torment, greed and thirst for regal power.

As Lady Macbeth, Vicki Sosbe is tormented, self-possessed, dangerous and sensual. It's a stirring, vibrant character turn that comes from the heart, layered with the just the right amount of confidence, nuance, passion and intensity. As "Macbeth" unfolds, she brings such a marvelous sense of drive and importance to Shakespeare's dialogue, familiar words, conversations and truths glimmer with a freshness and excitement that is both unique and rewarding. It's a star turn worth coming to Brookfield for commandeered by an imperious passion and poised grit that is completely haunting and captivating whenever she's on stage. The actress also shares a great on-stage chemistry with Regelmann which, here, heightens the dramatic scope and intensity of their many scenes together.

In the role of Banquo, Macbeth's rival and a general in the King's army who is completely oblivious to his own impending doom, Thomas Samuels cuts a very striking figure of bravery, attention, wisdom, dash and command. A supremely, self-assured actor who adds new dimension and personality to his characterization, Samuels is masculine, edgy and aggressive, bringing the right intonation and flourish to Banquo's wordplay, thoughts and feelings. It's a performance steeped in such keenly drawn,  Royal Shakespeare Company-like instinctiveness, Banquo's many conversations, speeches and dialogue seem newly-minted.

For this production, Farnol also surrounds her three amazing principal players with a fine supporting cast of actors including Sam Bass as Malcolm, Christopher Bird as Macduff, Ron Malyszka as the Doctor, Rebecca Pokorski as Lady Macduff, Sean Gorman as Angus/First Murderer and Kylie Block, Molly Badinelli and Keira Sosbe as The Three Witches. They too bring excitement and nuance to this engrossing Shakespearean drama.

A bold, brave and intense retelling, this "Macbeth" compels and fascinates at every turn. It is well played by the entire cast to stimulating effect. As directorial interpreter, Jane Farnol is a brilliant communicator of Shakespeare's language and his eerie take on bloodshed and revenge. Crafty ideas mixed with remarkable cinematic back screen visuals and refreshingly swift and edgy staging make this "Macbeth" is triumph of the highest order that reflects a very fresh, captivating makeover.

Photos of "Macbeth" courtesy of Stephen Cihanek

"Macbeth" is being staged at The Brookfield Theatre For the Arts (184 Whisconier Rd., Brookfield, CT), now through September 28.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 775-0023

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