"There 's daggers in men's smiles" Act II, scene iv
|Subterranean Shakespeare ; April 28, 2007 Berkeley, CA|
Director : Jeremy Cole ; Starring :
Reviewed on : 2007-05-05 18:45:07 ; Reviewed by : Denise Battista
|Behold the Scottish Play! Methinks I heard a voice cry the name. Perhaps
that accounts for the bizarre mishaps that slipped out of the control of
Subterranean Shakespeare’s opening night of (ahem) the Scottish Play.
Since I am no longer in the theatre, I suppose I may speak the fated word.
Still a little eerie.
Neither broken lights nor spilt candles snuff the sometimes brilliance of
director Jeremy Cole’s production of Macbeth. Cole seems to have an
affinity for the supernatural, strutting and fretting every ounce out of
this play. I say an affinity in remembrance of Cole’s 2006 production of
Richard III, and the ghostly presence of Queen Margaret throughout the play. The Berkeley Art Center transforms into an awkward little stage,
but at times, I forgot about the broken lights that sometimes stole scenes, and the cramped chairs that were all taken; the actors who looked like waiters, and my sometimes confusion about who’s who onstage. Why? Because sometimes the acting, and the ideas behind the acting, are just that good.
The Weird Sisters (Martha Stookey, Carrie Smith, and Molly Holcomb) are
wicked and fascinating to watch. They conjure and circle in a trine, with
blood-red capes draped over their hunched shoulders. Something wicked
this way comes, for sure. But the most fascinating is that at least one
of the three is almost always present on the stage. As the Weird Sisters,
they are always three, but Stookey, for instance, takes the role of
Lennox, although not listed as such in the program. She remains in
witch’s garb, yet speaks the lines of Lennox. Interestingly, she is not
completely transformed. Stookey remains all-knowing throughout. Whether
witch or thane, she carries an air of accusation and omniscience in her
voice and quite frankly, her face is like a book where men may read
strange matters. This, and some of the other Sisters’ transformations
into lesser characters, can be confusing if you don’t well know the play.
Even so, this trick focuses more than the usual cauldron full of attention
on the Sisters and their impact on the play.
There is a lovely volley of tension and release between our Macbeth (Paul
Jennings) and Lady Macbeth (Stephanie DeMott). Jennings is initially a
bit stiff in his delivery and demeanor, but he eases into his part little
by little. If not for the murders, the haughty ambition, and that damned
spot, their relationship would be one to live by. When our Macbeth is
weak, our Lady is strong; when the Lady is weak, Macbeth carries the
burden. And there is no denying their chemistry, both as written, and as
played on this stage. DeMott’s distraction as she rubs Duncan’s invisible blood from her hands left me mesmerized, as did the marked change in
Jennings’ Macbeth upon receiving word of his lady’s death. Their farewell is both ghostly and bittersweet.
Of note is Lynn-Audrey Tijerina, who plays both Banquo and Lady Macduff.
Tijerina’s timing and her tongue are spot on and Shakespearean by all
measures. Also of mention is Ben Grubb as Macduff. Grubb pulls some
heartstrings upon learning of his own family’s terrible demise.
Accompanied by Barber’s Adagio, Grubb falls to his knees and speaks his
lovely monologue, “All my pretty ones? Did you say all? … All?” It is a
fine thing when an actor can make his audience feel his pain.
Jack Halton gives a run for the money in this production. He portrays a
jovial, open, and kindly King, making him more vulnerable to treason and
regicide, as well as more tragic a loss. His offstage death gives birth
to the alcohol-induced Porter who crawls out from under the curtain
gripping a hunk of cheese (apparently an historically acceptable pairing
in Northern Europe up through Ireland and Scotland). Outside of that, the
cheese is udder comic relief. I, for one, won’t forget this Porter. King
to Porter, Porter to Priest (is there a priest in Macbeth?), Priest to
Murderer, Murderer to Doctor. The Doctor even made his rounds as a
Fireman. Heck, someone had to scoop up that candle! Okay, not really a
fireman, but Halton plays it all off well.
As does most of the rest of the cast. I don’t know that I’ve ever attended an opening of the Scottish Play during which nothing went awry. The Weird Sisters would have it no other way. Be it broken lights or stage on fire, perhaps throwing in the eye of newt, and toe of frog, whatever the brew, this cast can overcome.
Subterranean Shakespeare’s production of Macbeth, directed by Jeremy Cole,
is playing at the Berkeley Art Center in Berkeley, CA through May 26,
2007. For more information, visit myspace.com/subshakes.
Sir John Gilbert, R.A.,
The Three Witches
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