Heir Abhorrent

This enthralling, confusing Macbeth posits childlessness as a source of murderousness

I cannot say for sure that Melrose intended all the Freudian references, but even if he didn't, the resonance is strong, in places heavy-handed. Still, this Macbeth is intriguing, intellectually involving, visually imaginative, and -- best of all -- funny. Petal is a formidable presence onstage. He brings out, with impeccable comic timing, the dark humor in his character. Cavorting about in his Second World War soldier's uniform, he sometimes resembles Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. It's an enthralling performance, if perhaps a little too much -- it can be hard to keep up with the actor's constant changes of emotion.

If the production falls on its sword in any way, it's from that very problem: Between the symbolism of dead children, doors, trees, mirrors, knocking, etc., and the 1940s period costuming (which feels somewhat unsubstantiated and superimposed), there are just too many ideas to grasp. The casting only exacerbates the confusion. The decision to use only six actors works, to a degree: Having each cast member play several roles cleverly emphasizes the work's internal landscape. But if you don't know Macbeth very well, it's easy to get lost. Actors jump from part to part with little to indicate they've changed roles. As a result, the overwhelming sweep of Shakespeare's most relentlessly action-packed tragedy is constantly being interrupted while we figure out who's onstage.

The Weird Sisters: Garth Petal as Macbeth, 
and Jack Sale, Daniel Krueger, and Keith C. 
Davis as witches.
Rob Melrose
The Weird Sisters: Garth Petal as Macbeth, and Jack Sale, Daniel Krueger, and Keith C. Davis as witches.

Details

Produced by the Cutting Ball Theater

Through June 11

Tickets are $20-25

419-3584

www.c uttingball.com

Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor (between Eddy and Ellis), S.F.

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If Freud were alive today, he'd probably tell the deep-thinking director to get out of his own head. Melrose's Macbeth is deliciously brainy -- and I mean that in both a literal and a figurative sense: It's full of clever-clever ideas, and it exists mostly in the space between Macbeth's ears.

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