William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the most compact of his tragedies and in the Places Theatre production at the Bloomington Playwrights Project Theater, it has been trimmed to an hour and twenty-five minutes.
Director Terry Brino-Dean places the drama in a modern office setting that is initially rather jarring. The visual effect of a darkened room in which the three witches gathered around a lighted computer screen was neat, but when Macbeth describes the three stylish young representatives of the office typing pool as withered and old, my eyes said, "No." However, I must say that as the play went on the modern dress and even the office deportment of the characters frequently fitted the story.
The production at the BPP theater offered a large, strong cast that moved well and spoke the lines with authority and understanding. Ira Amyx took on the difficult part of Macbeth. Amyx commanded both our fear and our sympathy throughout, but he did tend to sound as if he was always trying to speak faster than his vocal equipment will allow him to with ease and clarity. Kelly Ann Ford played the virtuoso part of the scheming lady who would push her lord to the top, but then turns out to not have enough of the ‘wrong stuff:’ to stick through it all.
Arian Moayed was an articulate and sympathetic Banquo. Dane Bolinger was thoroughly believable both as Duncan, the Chief Executive of Scotland, and then as one of Macbeth’s assassins. It was a nice directorial touch to have Tamar Vartanian, Molly Thomas and Jennifer Walls enter their parts of the Witch’s brew into a computer and to have Macbeth read his fate from the results on the screen. The single comic scene of Macbeth, the drunken porter at the door, was richly served up by George Bookwalter.
Throughout the Places Theatre production of Macbeth there was the strong presence of Kurt Schlachter’s sound design. Electric guitars wailed, voices echoed in endless acoustical hallways, synthetic seagulls screamed. At times it supported the action. At other trimes it literally pummeled the audience as if it were itself a part of the tragedy.
Macbeth is a classic that many of us are familiar with from reading and from more than one production. It’s good to revisit it in different productions for the insights they offer us into the play itself and into our own reactions and understanding of it.