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Macbeth 

A stripped-down version of Shakespeare's dark classic

Wednesday, Aug 8 2001
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Indoor Shakespeare productions can concentrate on textual nuance and create poignant moments simply because the actors don't have to shout over the wind. This luxury makes Shakespeare Etc's production of the notorious Scottish play worthwhile. Director Claudia Weeks eschews the colorful banners and fanfare of the customary production, instead opting for an extremely stripped-down version. Her Castle Dunsinane is a dark, sinister place. While the sound effects (by Michael Santo) are effectively disquieting, there's no set and only minimal lighting, and the actors wear simple black costumes, which sometimes gets visually boring, especially at dull moments in the text. But at other times the minimalism proves effective in placing more weight on the acting. The Weird Sisters (Mollena Williams, Roger Loesch, and Floriana Alessandria) enter slowly, whispering at first, until Williams gives her lines an evil sensuality. The cast interprets this play as one of secrets and internalized torments that, under pressure, eventually break the surface. "Is this a dagger I see before me?" asks Matthew Henerson as Macbeth, fixating intently on the invisible object before giving a slight, knowing smile. In this precise performance, Henerson lets control give way to sheer fear at the sight of Banquo's ghost (an equally distinct Michael Santo). Likewise, Valerie de Jose's Lady Macbeth drips internal conviction, but then de Jose delivers a haunted and tortured "Out damned spot" speech. Greg Bryan breaks up the intensity with a versatile and amusing turn as the Porter. Kevin Kelleher turns in a refreshingly natural, conversational performance as Malcolm, not subscribing to the "inside of the thigh" approach that plagues other small roles -- in which an actor stands stiffly with his leg turned out, as if to say, "Look at me, I'm doing Shakespeare." With this collection of talented performers, Shakespeare Etc proves itself a company to be reckoned with.

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Karen McKevitt

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