Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Kiss of the Spider Woman
Daniel Conway has created a disquieting scenic design with both industrial and primitive elements, most strikingly a large central gate covered with sinuous metal rods resembling vines. To the sides of the performance area are metal mesh cages, in one of which percussionist John Kilkenny provides what amounts to a heartbeat for William Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy. (The sound design is by Karin Graybash, and Kenny Wollesen is the composer.)
The directors, Teller and Aaron Posner, emphasize the vitality of the script with a mostly young cast. As Macbeth, Ian Merrill Peakes is not a grizzled warrior but a man who still has options in his life. He is fierce in battle (all the warriors in this production carry and use vicious-looking curved swords) but has sufficient scruples that he won't take matters into his own hands regarding the witches' prophecy: if he becomes king, he becomes king. That's before he gets home and meets up with Lady Macbeth (the fiery Kate Eastwood Norris), who has enough aggressiveness for both of them.
Eric Hissom, Cleo House Jr., and Andrew Zox play the Weird Sisters in rubber masks that suggest melting flesh; Hissom also gets the showy role of the Porter, directing his cynical remarks to audience members in aisle seats. Other standouts are Paul Morella as a rather easygoing Banquo; Dan Olmstead as a Duncan who feels no need to keep up his guard around people he trusts; and the boyish Scott Kerns and Peter Vance as Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain.
What Teller has done with his effects is to bring the audience inside the hallucinations that come to plague Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. We see the spectral dagger floating in the mirror as Macbeth prepares to kill Duncan, the ghastly, disfigured body of Banquo at the feast, and the blood cascading from Lady Macbeth's hands during her sleepwalking scene. Rather than distracting from the power of the language, these visuals complement them.