Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Shakespeare on the Plaza is back for its fourth year and with a new Artistic Director, Martin Andrews. Andrews, who took over the position from David Richard Jones, has exposed the great potential of this festival in which he accesses the spirit of Shakespeare for the masses. Never have I seen an artistic director shake the hands of donors and homeless people alike. Patrons young and old, rich and poor, will find a friendly laidback environment that embraces the bold claim made in Mr. Andrews director's note, that "western theatre and democracy ... are inextricably linked."
For those who have attended the festival in the past and suffered the numerous incidents of microphone feedback and other technical issues, you will be pleased to find a feedback-free festival this year. Hats off to Andrews and crew for this major improvement. This and many other changes, brought by Andrews, appear to herald a new age for Shakespeare on the Plaza. Unfortunately, this production of Macbeth stands in the way of that progress.
Although the cast features some of Albuquerque's favorite stars, Chad Brummet as Macbeth and Amelia Ampuero as Lady Macbeth, the production appears disjointed and quickly falls flat. The strange mash-up of costumes, which spans several time periods, does not propel us into timelessness but rather leaves us wondering why Malcolm is in black skinny jeans and Duncan is in spats.
The cast as a whole is uneven and, as a result, the ensemble makes many of Shakespeare's supporting roles into unmemorable additions. However, some members of the ensemble do shine through. The Witches, played by Pip Lustgarten, Eboni Thompson, and Emma Montoya, are believable and compelling, which is not an easy task in modernity. This is in part due to director Kate Clarke's fine job of subtly weaving them into the background as ever present furies.
Unfortunately, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are not as well woven. On the whole, their soliloquies lack the internal struggle and intimacy that is fundamental to Shakespearean tragedy, but perhaps it was just a rough opening. There is no doubt in this critic's mind that Mr. Brummet and Ms. Amuero's talents far exceed their opening night performances. Audiences should not be dismayed, as they are sure to grow into the space and their roles.
The most notable opening night performance was Micah Linford, as Macduff, who does a fine job with Shakespeare's text. It is not easy to hold the audience's attention in such a large space, but Linford, having performed in three of the four seasons of Shakespeare on the Plaza, does it with ease.
It will be a wonderful thing to watch this production grow into its potential over the next few weeks. Be sure to come down to the Civic Plaza, enjoy the food trucks and one of Albuquerque's most important cultural events.
Macbeth will be presented in repertory with The Comedy of Errors directed by Dennis Elkins on Albuquerque's Civic Plaza. Shakespeare on the Plaza is free for all. For more information go to www.newmexicoshakespeare.org.