One of William Shakespeare’s darkest and most bewitching works, Macbeth is a tale of political intrigue, power, murder and witchcraft. Shakespearean productions are often open to updated interpretation and modernized staging to make them more appealing to the current theatre going audience, but the Generic Theater’s aspiration harkens back to its original era through many of the technical elements in the show. While the show's overall concept nods back to how it may have first been staged; this version never seems to fully rise to its potential. Rough staging, tentative performances and low energy kept this from becoming the captivating experience its author intended.
Director Miguel Girona's choice to focus on the love between Macbeth and his Lady is a fresh insight, but one that ultimately does the text a disservice. By focusing on the marital relationship between these two characters, other storylines within the script end up glossed over or even ignored completely. Add to this the fact that the staging misses the opportunity to use theater's open space to it's best function, the production seemed hampered with performances that couldn't go far enough. Focusing on an emotion as strong, powerful, and open as the romantic love between two powerful, iconic characters should have provided more passion and ability to captivate; however, the decision to hone in on this single aspect of the story ultimately causes the efforts here to fall short.
Tony Robinson as Macbeth and Tara R. Moscopulos as Lady Macbeth faced a daunting task, portraying two of the Bard's most seminal characters. Robinson missed the marks of Macbeth's descent into madness, and the audience was deprived of the opportunity to witness his struggle between right and wrong. There's little evidence of the cowardice that Lady Macbeth calls him on. Absent the deeper internal struggle, the role loses some of the more mesmermizing moments that are the hallmarks of the character. Similarly, Ms. Moscopulos’s performance misses the strength and power of Shakespeare’s most manipulative, evil, and deceitful characters. Here, the portrayal tended more toward the overly emotional versus the deliciously scheming.
There were some shining moments by some of the supporting characters that gave the production a hint of excitement and something to look forward to. Wallis Quaintance’s Banquo was stunning and brilliant to watch. She tackled the internal struggle that this character goes through with ease. Mrs. Quaintance’s performance was a breath of fresh air. Patrick C. Taylor’s performance as the Porter was comedy gold and did exactly what the role was written for—playing to “The Groundlings” to lessen the tension of the script. As Ross, Michelle Ford had strength, drive, and is someone that I found myself looking for whenever she was not on stage. Ms. Ford’s performance was truly lovely and captivating to watch. Overall, the text was communicated effectively to the audience. This is generally a struggle with any Shakespearean effort and the ensemble should applaud themselves for tackling language often found incomprehensible to contemporary theater-goers with ease and mastery.
The scenic design by David Olson worked to create numerous entrances, exits and levels for the actors to play with. However, the staging did not effectively use the space provided and we missed the magic and witchcraft that is often evoked productions of this show. The lighting design by Derrion LaZachan Hawkins was beautiful, and provided a few stunning moments. Of special note was the use of lighting to create the floating dagger that Macbeth imagines. More moments like this would have lifted the entire effort. Sadly, the sound engineering, also by Mr. Hawkins, was lacking. With nothing to cover the noise from the fog machine, the atmosphere it should have created was diluted by the obvious artifice of the machinery. Employing more sound in the show could have helped establish time and place, as well as compensate for some of the longer scene changes instead of leaving the audience to sit in silence in the dark.
In advance of the evening, I was most excited to discover the fight choreography by Ryan Quinn McIntire. Unfortunately, I felt let down by the tentativeness of the actors' movements. It smacked of target practice, with the actors telegraphing their movements in advance: “I am supposed to go here. Then here. And now here.” McIntire's work seems like it had great potential, but the actors either lacked the time to to do it justice or were simply too inexperienced to pull it off.
Even with these flaws, Generic Theater has taken a huge step with the inclusion of Macbeth as part of their 39th Season. It's amazing to witness a local theater step into the realm of Shakespearean production, an arena usually reserved for outdoor Summer festivals or larger, nationally established troupes. While this effort showed rough spots, there's promise for a bright future.
Written by Chris Bernhardt, Pictures by JLK Productions