Sunday, February 17, 2013

Macbeth—Post Five Theatre—NE Portland

Something Creative This Way Comes

This “Scottish Play” by William Shakespeare and directed by Orion Bradshaw will play through March 17th at 7 pm.  The space is located at 850 NE 81st Ave.  For further information go to www.postfivetheatre.org  Best get there early, as there is only street parking and it’s in a residential neighborhood.

Macbeth, or “The Scottish Play” (because the title will bring bad luck, if uttered in a theatre), is one of the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays and one of three steeped heavily in the supernatural (the other two being A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Tempest).  It is also being performed in a “black box” theatre, meaning it is stripped of its pageantry and must rely, almost solely, on the text and actors.  A shaky premise in untalented hands.  But, no fear, what we are witnessing here, is a group at the top of their game!

It is the classic story of greed, ambition, and revenge and is copied, in some form, in many of the plots today for film and theatre.  Macbeth (Ty Boice, the theatre’s Artistic Director) is a middle-management warrior, secretly desiring to be King.  His wife, Lady Macbeth (Cassandra Schwanke, Founder of HumanBeingCurious production company), is more than willing to egg him on, in this unseemly dream, in practical ways.  And when the King, Duncan (Brian Harcourt) and his minions just happen to visit their castle, the plot’s afoot to murder them and set himself up as the top dog.

But deceit has its own curious bedfellows in the guise of paranoia and guilt.  He begins to suspect that everyone, including his best friend, Banquo (Nathan Dunkin) and a fellow Thane, Macduff (Jonah Weston) and their families, are also after the Crown.  Add to this, the three “Weird Sisters,” witches (Ithica Tell, Melissa Whitney, & Nicole Accuardi) which promote (or warn) him toward/of his future.  The solution to the puzzle seems simple—kill them all.  And, all that it will cost in the end, is his wife’s sanity/life and his own head.

This production, as stated, is devoid of any of the usual trappings of a period piece.  It is done in modern dress, mostly in black and white costuming and, essentially, on a small, bare stage with minimal props.  The understated, but effective, sound effects, is a rumbling (perhaps, of thunder) at climatic moments and a faint tinkling of bells when his dagger of the mind “appears.”  Also one of the walls takes on a human-like appearance at one point.  All to enhance but not detract from the story.

The witches have the most elaborate costuming/make-up (McKenna Twedt).  They look like a cross between zombies and the ghostly demons from the Japanese Grudge/Ring horror films.  Pretty scary, very effective and well performed.  One can expect this show, per the subject matter, being bloody, but it is not overused.  And the fight scene at the end is well staged by Sam Dinkowitz. 

The direction by Mr. Bradshaw is spot on.  He keeps the play moving at a rapid pace but not so fast that we lose the story.  He keeps it simple but to the point and seemingly allows his actors to explore the intricacies of the characters, as well as letting the audience form their own viewpoints as to the meanings.  I hope to see him direct more productions but he should not forget his talent as an actor, either, having given an outstanding performance as Puck in their “…Dream” last summer.

It is grand to see Mr. Boice once again onstage (appeared as Prince Hal in their Henry lV, Part 1.  Begs the question, though, will he grace us with his Henry V sometime?).  He has tremendous power as Macbeth but I particularly like his quieter moments, when you observe him thinking, weighing in his mind, the options presented to him.  This is an actor who goes full force forward in his character interpretations and it is exposed splendidly on “the boards.”  If this is a sample of things to come for their group, count me in!

Ms. Schwanke, as his lady, is beautiful in her physical form but equally beautiful in her evil intent.  Can one be attracted and repelled, as well, by the same person?  In her, you can.  She is the Beauty and the Beast, as one, in her Lady Macbeth.  She seduces, she schemes, and she is unstoppable in her ruthlessness.  Cassandra is glorious in all these guises.  And she is equally effective as a leader of her own company and director of their Tempest, earlier this year. (See my reviews of both their companies’ shows elsewhere in this blog).

Philip Berns as Seyton, chief henchman for Macbeth’s horrible deeds, is steely in resolve to succeed in his duty, no matter how unnatural.  He draws your attention to him every time he’s onstage.  He’s been touted in my past reviews as a shining example of the old theatre adage, “ There are no small parts….”  The only comic scene in the play is led by the character, the Porter, well-played by Keith Cable. 

Mr. Weston, as Macduff, plays him like a graveled-voiced, Sicilian from some gangster film and he’s very effective.  As is, Mr.Duncan, as the bloody Banquo.  And Ms. Twedt, as Lady Macduff, makes the most of her one brief scene and is good in the other two roles she plays (as well as Costumer for the show).

I highly recommend this show and their company.  Their new black box theatre is super.  They are the best in this area for mouthing the verse “…trippingly on the tongue,” and making it understandable/conversational.  If this be the Future of performing Arts, “…play on.”  This is an in-your-face production, so be prepared, as it may not be for everybody.  If you choose to see it (and, I hope, you will) please tell them that Dennis sent you.