Here’s an immediate, not entirely considered — yes, exactly what bloggers are excoriated for by haughty traditional media types — gut level response (one that may be re-visited) to last night’s MacBeth, performed by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre:
It knows only one emotion. Every character on stage spits and seethes with anger. When news that fathers and wives and children and kings are murdered, when daggers and the dead appear, when forests move, wives die and witches meow…anger is the only response. The result is one of the worst presentations of this play I’ve ever attended.
I can only assume, because of the uniformly uni-dimensional acting performances, that director Barbara Gains ordered her toupe to attack the text with only one thing in mind: hostility. It guts the play of all subtly. Murders its humanity. Renders it unaffecting. MacBeth is a decent man who gradually descends into hell on earth. He’s torn, conflicted…as with most of Shakespeare’s important characters he changes. Ben Carlson’s MacBeth doesn’t change. From the moment he steps onto the stage a victorious general, to when he leaves it with a dagger in his gut, his MacBeth is the same man. We feel no sympathy for his awful ordeal. No loss. It signifies nothing.
This, despite some clever conceits. Gains has her witches play paparazzi and strippers. False unreliable prophets, frequented by de centered, hollow men. those unloved. Motivated by cheap sex and celebrity worship. MacBeth is in constant need of affirmation and external validation. Lacking center he is insecure about his manhood. Goaded into action because of a fragile sense of self, he loses his soul. His behavior contradicts his morals.
There are some good ideas here. Some good visuals too. Karen Aldridge’s dead, Marat-like,
Lady MacBeth in a transparent bath tub full of diluted, outed blood is particularly striking.
What this production lacks is life.