Saturday, February 19, 2011

NOT a Theater Review - Macbeth

For one thing, I like people in the cast and am a member of the company, so I can't be impartial, for another, I'm no critic.  This report on Kitchen Dog Theater's production of The Scottish Play is simply the reaction of a set designer to a production she didn't design, but is rootin' for.  Right?

So...  I liked the set. (Of course I start there.  First thing the audience sees!)  Minimal, industrial, steel and wood stairs* and a large platform at upstage center with wide steps down.  The black concrete block walls of the theater were untouched except for stenciled grafitti... the only thing I slightly disagreed with.  Grafitti?  Fine idea.  It's placement/composition was satisfying, but though it was at three sizes, there was only one design: all white, a chess piece - a king - with, under it, the letters ME, all in a rectangular cartouche.  Now, if scattered among other grafitti designs, it would have been witty, but plastered all over as the only decoration...  "King ME"  Really?  Wit needs to look tossed-off-casually. But the wagon movement that created the banquet table for Banquo's big scene was a great idea.  Clever and effective.  The spareness of the set was perfect for this production.

Still in tech mode: the space was a bit too sound-reflective, making upstage dialogue hard to catch.  Perhaps sound panels were needed on that wall or hung above?  Lighting looked good and responded nicely to changes in the dialogue - especially at the "Tomorrow" speech - and Banquo's Ghost light was creepy.  Costumes were black-ish and military-ish which seemed right.  Loathed Lady MacDuff's dress, sorry.  But the red drapes for the Macbeths at their royal apex were lovely, in fact, the orchestration of black and red throughout the play was wonderful..

The whole production?  Really enjoyed it.  I liked the stripped feeling of set, costumes, and cast.  The fluidity of actors changing roles!  And the minimal costume changes to accomplish that was beautiful - especially the over-the-head-rags of the witches, those roles bounced like balls between many actors.  I loved that the theater catwalks were used.  Stage fighting is fake-y (if you've seen a heated competitive fencing bout, you see the difference), but this fighting had energy and, in opening moments of the show, was cleverly used to foreshadow the tragedy.

The performances?  Really good.  Mr. and Mrs. MacB were (as they should be) fascinating.  Compared to other productions they had more reality... more earthiness maybe?  One critic praised the "Is this a dagger?" speech as actually seeming as if the actor could see a dagger.  That sums it up for me - this production and every actor in it seemed, for once, to be really seeing.  Really there.  Because they were convinced, we were:  MacDuff was heartbroken, Lady Macbeth would dash an infant's brains out, Macbeth would dare... anything.  Banquo's ghost was real.

Unbiased opinion?  Worth seeing.  Go buy a ticket if you can - it's selling out.

Sidenote: it's odd, as a designer, to see people you know acting.  I know it's acting, but you do sometimes wonder where the gentle person you know off stage finds the violence and anger displayed on-stage... and you quietly promise yourself not to get them mad next time you work together.

Footnote* One of the stairs was borrowed - I know because I designed it myself for summer Shakespeare a few seasons ago.  Another friend on stage.

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