Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Out Damned Spot!

Joe Dowling’s new production of Macbeth at the Guthrie, with its trim yet evocative sets, breakneck pace, talented cast, and avoidance of dramaturgical foofarah, remains riveting from beginning to end. Young Eric Heger’s Macbeth impresses us with his valor, his ambition, and also his conscience in the early going, and Michelle O'Neill as Lady Macbeth is deliciously ruthless in a strangely modern way. (Maybe it’s the shiny red dress.) The fumbling awkwardness leading up to Duncan’s murder (off-stage) is painful to watch … and everything’s downhill from there, of course.

Meanwhile, Bill McCallum plays the loyal sidekick Banquo to perfection; the murder scenes involving children drive you to the point of squeamishness and alarm—which they’re designed to. The tension between a large number of people trying to act normal and a few headstrong individuals following through with the ghastly logic of their ill-fated deviation from the norms of hospitality remains strong almost to the end.

The weakest parts of the play involve the three weird sisters. They don’t jibe well with the mid-twentieth century dress and there’s no bubbling cauldron anywhere in sight. (Or maybe it’s just that I’ve seen Barbara Bryne and Isabel Monk in a few too many productions.)

The usher greats you at the door as you enter with: “The play is 2 hours and 9 minutes long, and there’s no intermission.” In other words, it will be like sitting through a medium-length movie, a little harder to hear, perhaps, but with much richer language.

Home, we pull out the play and begin to reread the lines…

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