Saturday, October 27, 2007

That other Macbeth

As mentioned previously, the Macbeth production I had been in was cancelled, so when I attended previews for the Actors' Shakespeare Project's production of the "Scottish Play" as an usher, I could not help but compare the two productions in my mind.

First of all, ASP's Macbeth is excellent. Much of the scuttlebutt about the Boston scene was about the decision to use an all female cast. However, rather than creating some campy Macbeth in drag, they delivered a striking production that involved some first rate actors in roles that they normally would not be allowed to play. After all, if a director can choose to cast (in my case) an male Ashkenazi Jew as a multitude of Scotsmen, why not women (of any ethnicity) as Scotsmen?

As an audience member, I was particularly excited by Marya Lowry's powerful Macbeth, and Bobbie Steinbach's strength and versatility as Duncan, the Porter, Warlike Siward, and one of the witches (this trio of witches, in their second appearance, use some physical comedy to make a vulgar pun that gives some credence to Alan K. Farrar's intuition that in the original production the witches were performed by the comedians in the troupe.) There was one actor (whom I will leave unnamed because the performance was a preview and I have confidence that subsequent performances will be improved upon) who has shown great comedic skills in other plays, but seemed to introduce a sarcastic or ironic tone of voice into what was supposed to be a tragic scene-- but that was the only false note of the show-- and it was a mistake that only someone of talent could make.

As said earlier, I was curious to see how other actors were going to attack roles for which I had rehearsed this past summer. Denise Cormier's version of the Bloody Captain was a fine version, but simply not how I imagined the role-- the joy of a classical repertoire is that roles are constantly being reinterpreted. As I developed the role, my Captain had become more stylized and inspired more by Odissi dancer Sonali Mishra's interpretation of Devi Mahakali (better known in the Anglophone world as the goddess Kālī) and a Samurai puppet piece I had seen twice performed by Paul Vincent Davis; hers was more naturalistic. She was clearly in a situation where she had to put more imaginative work into her more central role as a witch.

To my disappointment, the role of the Old Man, Ross' father, was dropped from this production but did not injure the story. The practice of cutting or rearranging lines, scenes, or characters is actually not uncommon when performing Shakespeare, either due to the length of the play, or due to the logistics of casting. I miss the character and his lines, but I must admit, he is not essential to the plot. The scene between Lennox and the unnamed Lord, from Act III was a joy and I savoured the reading of the Lord's lines even more so because it had been shifted to Act IV, which meant that during intermission I had fretted that the scene had been dropped entirely. In Act V, Cormier now had the role of Seyton, and performed much as I had during rehearsals with the Lollygagging Players which only made me more envious of her costume.

Post a Comment