Local Arts Reviews


Macbeth: A Walking Shadow

John Henry Faulk Living Theatre,

Through October 28

Females dominate the Disciples of Melpomene production of Shakespeare's Scottish Play, the second tragedy in the company's maiden season. Males lurk in the shadows. Shakespeare played with gender in all his writing; his ghost accompanies the Amazons dueling with their Celtic staffs in this production.

Alison Defrees and Sharon Sparlin rot and rave as Lady and Lord Macbeth. A voluptuous First Lady, Alison lets her hair down, sinning and sucking blood, reclaiming the role of Lady Macbeth from Nancy Reagan's politicking and manipulating clutches. Sparlin is well-equipped to show Lord Macbeth's insecurity about his manhood. Despite fine individual performances and a fleeting kiss, the couple have to work hard to maintain sexual chemistry onstage.

If director Marshall Ryan Maresca loses the audience at times in his She-world, he keeps hearts pounding on a trip through the supernatural world of Dunsinane and the many worlds of human psychosis. The mania of the three incubi (three males who play the witches) combined with the rain on the roof and the ritual drumming of John Huber and Kim Cooper invites otherworldly spirits into the house.

Traces of blood on the scrubbed hands of the murderers add to the visuals of mystic horror. With a stage designed like Beowulf's hall, the beating on the door sounds like the knocking of the monster. The appearance of Banquo's ghost, a haunting Melissa Darby, leads to a memorable image of mental illness breaking up a party. Actresses like Parker Williams and Judith Lee give life to their flesh and blood support roles.

Experimenting with the mystic form of Shakespeare's play works so well that it's fair to wonder why the script yields no experiment. Elizabethan theatre lacked the lighting and special effects that produce the eerie atmosphere here. Such dynamic drama could do without some of the superfluous lines.

Is a man just a woman with a stick? Apart from the crackling role reversal in the sexual interplay between Macbeth and the male witches, the feminization of the characters in this production may be distracting. But for an authentic supernatural freakout this Halloween weekend, the version of the Scottish play in the John Henry Faulk Theatre will not be bettered.

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Macbeth, Disciples of Melpomene, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alison Defrees, Sharon Sparlin, Melissa Darby, Parker Williams, Judith Lee, John Huber, Kim Cooper

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