Nothing is but What Is Not: “Macbeth”

Presented by F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Joey DeMita
Original Music by Steven Bergman

November 22 – 30th, 2013
Arsenal Center for the Arts
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Review by Danielle Rosvally

(Watertown) Some projects require a special touch.  There are, for instance, people who implicitly understand Musicals.  The musical form requires things that other theatre does not: an eye for choreography, an ear for music, an interest in balancing ham and legitimate acting…

Directing Shakespeare is a very specific task that requires a very specific skillset: an ear for rhetoric, an understanding of verse, a knowledge of history, an eye for embedded stage directions… F.U.D.G.E.’s Joey DeMita has none of these skills.

There were some redeeming qualities of the production.  Dave Rich’s Macbeth and Linda Goetz’s Lady M. showed great promise.  Unfortunately, without solid direction to back their efforts, they mostly just appeared to be screaming into the abyss.  The show as a whole had an unfinished quality; literally in some cases (the Kingly Robe which Duncan wore then was passed on to Macbeth had visibly missing trim in certain spots; a large bridge which served as a set piece was insufficiently attached to the stage and thus perilously teetered upward and returned down with a distracting “THUNK” every time an actor mounted it from the stage left side).  The entire show seemed under-rehearsed; the fight scenes (which are notable and EPIC portions of this play) were performed in awkward silence.  The actors were obviously uncomfortable with their weapons (in one case, Macbeth’s sword caught on his frog as he went to give a dramatic drawing sweep causing the actor to visibly fumble when he should have gestured with ease).  There were several instances of slipped or paraphrased lines (most notably Macbeth’s famous 3.4 utterance “It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood” was changed to “it will want blood, they say; blood will want blood”).  Shakespeare, specifically a play as iconic as Macbeth, needs to be spoken verbatim lest it appear sloppy.

The pacing (both on a micro and macro level) was so slow that I forgave the few audience members I caught taking naps.  I knew where the end of every line was because the actors paused whether they had punctuation to support this pause or not.  Enjambed lines were dropped, and there were so many Deep Dramatic Moments that I wondered if William Shatner hadn’t served as text coach.  Word to the wise: silence is only poignant if used sparingly.  Because of these pauses, the energy of the entire show bottomed out before it had a chance to get going which made even Macbeth seem drab and common place.  There was music inserted between every scene and sometimes the audience was left to stare at a blank, unchanging stage for upwards of thirty seconds at a clip.  Any innate vitality to the piece was robbed from it by this tedious plodding.

Because of the low energy caused by these pacing troubles, the giant political issues tackled by the play seemed commonplace.  Duncan was a man speaking with his friends in his living room rather than a King addressing his troops on the battlefield.  The porter had no reason to crack jokes about incessant and booming knocking because it was a polite and contained tap.  The stakes took a nosedive with the energy as the production plodded along.

The show’s one bold choice, to include a pool of water as the centerpiece of its set which eventually served as a visual metaphor for blood, did actually work.  My only concern was for the health of the actors who were forced to drink from the pool (especially because act two saw a plethora of walking through the pool).  The sound of the water served as a good aural connection to reinforce the show’s violence, but its usage was confused throughout the play.  Often scenes of extreme viciousness would happen in and around the water (the murder of the Macduffs, for instance), and other times violence would have nothing to do with it (Macbeth’s death certainly did not).  This one saving grace could have gone a lot further with a bit more directorial care.

As I’ve hinted, this is true of the entire production.  DeMita has no ear for language and that reflected in the show’s clarity.  For instance, it doesn’t make sense for the First Witch to say, “Why stands Macbeth thus amazedly?” if Macbeth is sprawled on the ground.  The several textual references to the “golden round” have no bearing if the King wears no crown.  A good dramaturge could have helped solved many of these problems (including the rampant mispronunciations, and perhaps some of the pacing issues), but alas for the actors there was none to support them in this endeavor.

They say that Macbeth carries a curse with it.  That so much as saying the name of “the Scottish Play” in a theatre will bring horrible luck upon the speaker and his current project.  I think the only curse upon this production was a director with no clue about Shakespeare.

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