Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Hartford Stage

Also see Zander's review of The Most Happy Fella

Matthew Rauch
Macbeth at Hartford Stage is a terrifyingly dark production. That is not a bad thing; in fact, in this case, quite a compliment. Darko Tresnjak has directed and designed this play and I can attest that he spends long hours, weeks, even months configuring Shakespeare. His presentation is highly detailed and intricately conceived. The physical affects linger, might become preludes for nightmares for those attending. That said, Hartford Stage's realization of this Scottish Play, exciting and enduring, is memorable.

The stage is black, fog begins to encase the stage, and witches (Kate MacCluggage, Mahira Kakkar, and Kaliswa Brewster) make chalk marks on the stage. Their breasts are enlarged, drooping, and one imagines that this might be quite uncomfortable. The prophesy dictates that sons of Banquo (Grant Goodman) will ascend to the throne in eleventh century Scotland. Duncan, King of Scotland (David Manis) visits Macbeth (Matthew Rauch). Soon enough, coaxed by the proactive, power-hungry Lady Macbeth (Kate Forbes), Macbeth kills the Duncan and Macbeth is crowned king.

During the early portion of the play, Rauch plays the character as one who is thoughtful and contemplative. He ponders and considers. After he stabs Duncan, however, he becomes haunted. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth, who has been intensely filled with greed, becomes insane. She was able to goad her husband to evil; then, she goes mad—ravaged by guilt and despair. Forbes portrays Lady Macbeth as absolutely driven and controlling.

Macbeth is stricken with himself, how he has evolved. He does fear the march of Birnam Wood to Dunsinane. He has been told to watch out for Macduff (Robert Eli) and realizes "none of woman born" will hurt him. He finds that Macduff managed to get to England and takes according measures. Later, however, Macduff and Malcolm (Philippe Bowgen) lead a charge on Macbeth's castle. Macbeth is slain and Malcolm becomes King of Scotland.

While Lady Macbeth was a huge influence upon Macbeth, he could have taken a different path. He might have made other choices. Ultimately he realizes who he was and now has become—initially a good man with political ambitions, who yields to evil impulses.

The witches' presence cannot be minimized and Tresnjak enhances their roles as catalysts. They appear amid the special effects and are grotesquely mysterious. They are not rational. Yet, they are pivotal as Macbeth loses his grasp on morality. He is worried about what they have said. Further: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" is one of Macbeth's prominent themes.

The entire design team for this Macbeth deserves special commendation. The atmosphere created by Tresnjak, Matthew Richards (lighting), and sound deliverer Jane Shaw creates a distinctive and troubling world from another time and historical locale. Suttirat Anne Larlarb brings costumes which are oftentimes appropriately drab. Then, there are the witches!

Tresnjak's Macbeth is sometimes horrifically graphic and jarring—everyone will not be taken with the concept. Cauldrons are filled with unseemly contents. Of course, one has the option of looking away if it all becomes too much. This talented director very much makes his vision of the tragedy happen.

Macbeth continues at Hartford Stage through November 10th. For tickets, visit www.hartfordstage.org or call (860) 527-5151.

Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol

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