IF YOU GO
William Shakespeare's "MacBeth"
What: Shortened version of Shakespeare's famous tragedy about power, greed and murder
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 & 17
Where: Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, 2301 First Street in downtown Fort Myers
Information: 239-333-1933 or sbdac.com
Something Else: Because of the violence in the play, children under 16 not admitted without an adult; also, street parking in downtown Fort Myers can be an iffy proposition if you attend on the weekend
FORT MYERS — Aided by a solid trio of performances at the bloody heart of one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, director Annette Trossbach's stylish take on "MacBeth" debuted to a standing ovation Wednesday night at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Fort Myers.
No swords clang about in this piece; pistols are the arms of choice and Scotland's soldiers all wear combat boots. The witches have multiplied (eight total) and flash enough skin to open a Vegas revue. Lady MacBeth? She's dripping in jewels while wearing a skin-tight ruby sheath that barely hints at the fire within her damned soul. Suffice to say this is a savage new twist on the Bard of Avon.
The sets are minimal and there are two stages so that actors can use one while props (mostly tables and chairs) are toted off the other. Actors dress in a variety of modern styles, tending toward the whimsical and militaristic, if that makes any sense.
Oddly enough, the re-imagining of the Weird Sisters seems the most sacrilegious, yet works perhaps the best of all. Spreading the lines out among eight actresses - who double and triple in other roles - and are constantly wandering around the stage on any number of specious errands only increases the bizarre factor. The Act IV, Scene I sequence where MacBeth confronts the witches in their cavern is brilliantly staged and a pleasure to watch.
Three individual performances are the tentpoles from which the show hangs. Rachael Endrizzi is electrifying as the iron-willed Lady MacBeth, one of Shakespeare's most horrifying creations. Utterly ruthless, willful and possessing ambition enough for two, Endrizzi steps into the character with gusto and seems truly a force of nature.
Not to be outdone, veteran actor John McKerrow proves an able MacBeth, his face and body an excellent canvas for the character's roiling cauldron of doubts and turmoil, as well as the subtlety to convey the king's future slide into madness. McKerrow's experience and previous stage training also serves him well during the play's action scenes. His most able sparring partner is Michael Dunsworth (MacDuff), who gives his grief-stricken nobleman a raw, tense, almost primal edge that charges the play's final scenes with an electric energy.
Trossbach's goal is to make Shakespeare more approachable, and in this she succeeds. The entire production is spare, modern and anything but stuffy. In the process, she's managed to shepherd home an entertaining work that likely induces eye-rolling among high-schoolers, grimaces among the population at large and was considered last considered contemporary some four centuries ago.
There are some places that need adjustments. Trossback needs to remind her mostly inexperienced cast to slow down just a bit, enunciate, find the cadence of the words and project. These are some of the most famous syllables in the English language - say then like you mean them - and to the audience.
The two-stage setup is clever, especially given that "MacBeth" has 28 scenes spread over five acts; scene changes would have added a half-hour to the play. However, the set dressers (and "dead" actors crawling off-stage) all to often prove a distraction. Much of the furniture and larger props seem almost unnecessary given the highly stylized nature of the play. I wonder if a lot of the larger props could simply be dispensed with?
Finally, early press materials and media reports made much ado about the gritty nature of this adaptation; children under 16 aren't allowed in without parental supervision because much of the violence that traditionally occurs off-stage now takes place ON-stage. I'm of two minds about this. The attempts at realism are admirable and do add a certain bloody intensity, yet seem to deprive the work of some of its essential magic.
On the whole, the play works wonderfully as entertainment. The action zips along at a swift clip and the dialogue - still Shakespearean - never seems stilted or stultifying. Non-Shakespeare fans need not fear, there's plenty to like here.
I know. The play is supposedly cursed and no one is supposed to doth speak its name. Still, if I wrote "Mackers," everyone would think I was crackers. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org