Monday, May 14, 2018

Review of Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Macbeth. It was by William Shakespeare and it was adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. It was about a man named Macbeth (Ian Merrill Peakes) who was fighting in a war and he and his friend Banquo (Andrew White) meet three witches (McKinley Carter, Theo Germaine, and Emily Ann Nichelson) who tell Macbeth that he will be king. His wife (Chaon Cross) decides to help him become king by plotting to kill the current one, Duncan (Christopher Donahue). And even once he is king, Macbeth is afraid of getting overthrown and so he decides to try and kill anyone who might take his throne from him. It is about wanting power, unhealthy relationships, and persuasion.

I thought that what they did with the witches'look with costumes (Mara Blumenfeld) and makeup (Richard Jarvie) was really cool. They had blood on their mouths and buzzcuts and were very pale with smudges on their cheekbones and black under their eyes dripping down. They wore chainmail and bandages and giant black cloaks. It seems like they are collectively a representation of war and suffering and greed. I liked how the witches were kind of always around; it was creepier to have them go into a scene from watching it from above. I did think the production could have done more with the cauldron scene, since the cauldron is supposed to be full of magic. I was expecting that they would have made it so they used more magic in the scene, since this scene is one of the most supernatural. The witches are doing magic and summoning spirits, and it was kind of predictable because the heads all just appear out of the covering on top of the cauldron. This might have been less obvious from the main floor, but from the balcony I felt like I could see exactly what was happening.

I think that Macbeth, the play, is very largely about emotions and how the world genders them. Macbeth wants to be the man his wife thinks he should be, and that involves being ruthless, power hungry, and violent. Lady Macbeth has a speech near the beginning of the play about unsexing her and taking away her femininity. She wants to be able to be ruthless and feared and heartless and she doesn't see that as being feminine. She doesn't want to be feminine because she thinks that makes her weak. At the beginning of the show, she runs downstairs and takes a baby from a coffin, then puts the baby back in the coffin and slams the lid. I think that is supposed to show us that Lady Macbeth is tired of being a woman. After the thing that she loves and feels soft feelings for is taken away she feels like she wants to tear people to shreds. That is a emotion women have too, but in this play it seems like people don't think it is an emotion a woman should have. At the beginning of the play it seems like Shakespeare thinks there are feminine emotions and masculine emotions and the two don't cross over. But by the end of the play, once you get to MacDuff (Timothy D. Stickney), you see that men should be able to be heartbroken when everything is taken away from them. My favorite exchange is when Malcom (Adam Wesley Brown) says, "Dispute it like a man" and Macduff responds "I shall do so, but I must also feel it as a man." That shows you that Shakespeare is ultimately saying that men should be able to feel loss and express sadness and vulnerable emotions. For MacDuff, the gendering of emotion is stupid, which I agree with. He can feel pain (which Malcom sees as an unmanly thing to do) and still be a man. I thought Stickney did a great job with this scene and it was really moving.

This production made a few choices that I had never seen in Macbeth. The dagger from Macbeth's dagger speech appeared in the mirror, so that means that the audience sees the vision that Macbeth sees before he goes to kill Duncan. I think it is interesting because it makes us as the audience ask "what is reality in this world? Is this is a world in which magic is real?" If so, the witches could be manipulating him to kill Duncan and they could also be manipulating what we see, which would be a really interesting concept. Another interesting moment was in the "Out damn spot" scene. The Gentlewoman (Jennifer Latimore) and the Doctor (Donahue) couldn't see what you could see, that Lady Macbeth actually had blood on her hands and her dress. This is really cool because you couldn't see any blood on her dress when she came on, but then she put her hand on her dress and there was suddenly blood. This is another moment where you are not completely sure what is real and what isn't. This one actually makes you feel insane, though, because there are other people on stage who don't see what you are seeing. Until this point, we are seeing what Macbeth has been seeing, like the dagger and Duncan and the ghost of Banquo. But in this moment you see that you might not just be being manipulated by the witches but that it might have driven you crazy. I thought that was really interesting.

People who would like this show are people who like mirror daggers, manipulative witches, and feeling it like a man. I think this is an aesthetically cool show that made some interesting choices.

Photos: Liz Lauren

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