by William Shakepeare
directed by Paula Plum
Review by Gillian Daniels
(Medford) The Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth wraps itself in a pleasing 1920’s aesthetic. Opening in the midst of a funeral procession, Latin is chanted for a tiny coffin as the witches follow in nun habits. Lady Macbeth (Mara Sidmore) turns to hush them as the funeral ends and she sits down to listen to the radio. The effect of the historical displacement is gorgeous and creepily off-putting.
Macbeth is best enjoyed as a tragedy of ambitions and the beauty and drama of the chosen decade provides an excellent backdrop. The same drive that leads the titular Macbeth to glory on the battlefield leads him to murdering King Duncan (Richard Snee) in civilian life. Allyn Burrows plays a war veteran Macbeth lost in his own time, his historical displacement akin to the audience’s.
Sidmore and Burrows make a power-hungry couple, delivering performances of over-the- top passion. They jump into each other’s arms when they first meet after Burrows comes home from war and begin plotting regicide immediately. They are not subtle in their plans. Hiding their hunger for the crown proves to be their worst challenge. When the ghost of Banquo, here cast as a woman played by Sarah Newhouse, appears to Burrows during Macbeth’s inaugural feast, his jovial mask slips to such a degree, it doesn’t seem like any of the guests are left in doubt as to the identity of Duncan’s murderer.
Much more subtle is the flexible Richard Snee who takes many roles throughout the play. His turn as the Porter provides some momentary relief from the bloody happenings. Later, as one of Macbeth’s thugs, he kills with efficiency and casual malice.
All the Halloween-like elements of the play are ramped up to a fever pitch and The Actors’ Shakespeare Project does not lack in style. The witches make their predictions in a religious fervor, speaking in tongues. Lady Macbeth scours her hands in the light of a single, bare bulb descended from the rafters to guide her through madness. With each death, in one of the production’s most striking decisions, the gates of the House of Macbeth glow a hellish red.
It’s a beautiful interpretation. As autumn sets the tone for a more somber season, I heartily recommend seeing Macbeth before it ends its run.