Socially Isolated with “Macbeth”

Presented by Liars & Believers
Directed by Jason Slavick
Original Music and Sound Design by Jay Mobley
Additional Video by Sam Powell

June 18, 2020 – Present (Weekly)

Review by Gillian Daniels

ZOOM — Liars & Believers slices off bite sized pieces of the Scottish Play for serialized consumption! In a world that demands us to simultaneously be far apart while empathizing with each other’s difficulties, we revisit a cautionary tale of a man whose name has become synonymous with backstabbing cruelty. In serializing Macbeth, we watch a show that absorbs the changes and horrors of our contemporary headlines and sense of unease each passing week.

In the first installment, “Episode 1 – Foul is Fair,” Duncan (Bob Mussett) and Malcolm (Ben Heath) learn of the successes of war over a cascade of protest footage. This beginning suggests not some sort of “valorous” war fought by an idealized king and prince but a grim profiteering off of social repression by politicians. My hope is that these images of protestors and violence are revisited and rewoven into the material of the story.

“Episode 2 – Two Truths” slides from civic discourse into social media. “All hail Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter,” greet the three witches (three versions of Rebecca Lehrhoff) as they use Snapchat and Instagram filters to underscore both their ethereality and their frivolity. Macbeth (a guarded Jesse Garlick) and Banquo (a spirited and warm Rose McInnes) are shocked and delighted to be told of their future greatness. They then receive a call from Ross (Noah Simes) that seems to confirm their hopes and ignites Macbeth’s ambition. This piece is impressively staged, with Garlick and McInnes both walking under the open sky with their phones so that it seems as if they walk in proximity to each other.

The most recent video of this writing is “Episode 3 – Day of Success,” is my favorite so far, mostly because it sidesteps special effects for human cruelty. With Macbeth denied power by Duncan, we join Lady Macbeth (Rachel Wiese) as she jogs through the woods in running gear. She receives Macbeth’s “letters” (text messages) and finds her ambition awake, as well. She begs the sky to “unsex” her in pursuit of acquiring a royal title. Wiese plays Lady Macbeth wound tightly, hungry for control. It’s my hope that we continue to explore her drives as Macbeth’s machinations take center stage.

In covering this series, I wonder what divides film from theater. Film can evolve in meaning but, in form, it’s shot the way it’s shot. Film is permanent until the negatives are dust or, at least, until YouTube takes the video down for copyright violation. Theater, however, is constructed to change in both meaning and form, recited, revived, and re-enacted in newer (and sometimes stranger) constructions that often reflect the time and space not where it was conceived but where it is brought to life once more.

Theater can be so elastic, but in these long months of Zoom video performances, the elasticity of theater has been challenged. This production of Macbeth is well-positioned to highlight shared isolation and anxieties during the pandemic. I look forward to watching future entries in this project.

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