Strong performances and a light directorial touch make this Shakespearean tragedy worth a trip



City Theatre, 3823-D Airport, 512/524-2870
Through Nov. 3

Something wicked this way comes, and indeed, 'tis the season for boiling cauldrons. The familiar scene of the mini-coven that opens the Scottish play is given a fresh spin in the latest from City Theatre. The three witches, typically played as curmudgeonly septuagenarians covered in warts, are instead tricked out as twentysomething hotties in torn stockings and copious amounts of eyeliner. For a moment, one wonders if they haven't taken a wrong turn somewhere and stumbled in from the ACL Music Festival after too much Left Hand Milk Stout.

But alas, Shakespeare's unmistakable words come whistling out of their well-lubricated mouths, though some of them – as when the First Witch purrs, "I'll drain him dry as hay" – take on an entirely new meaning. In fact, these witches seem almost on loan from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus: a trio of wanton temptresses, at turns gape-mouthed and serpentine – a goth-themed Lust Collective. My companion for the night (who is 15, and male) does not complain. The truth is, these alluring mystics – and the stunning Cara Juan in particular – provide the viewer with one of the evening's most memorable visuals and are a fine introduction to an otherwise straight portrayal of the Bard's tragedy of ambition gone awry.

The director, Kevin Gates, has a light touch here and is clearly not a member of Team Branagh – famously bent on leveraging the power of spectacle to lull us into a sea of calm as we make that first important leap into the foreign territory of the Shakespearean vernacular. Nope. You're mostly on your own here, without the help of panacean pyrotechnics. As in an Eighties-era U2 concert, simplicity reigns.

The costuming is, in large part, appropriately funereal and dominated by blacks and grays with a bit of the ultraviolet. Still, although the characters' clothing shares a color palette, the periods and styles represented are a bit of a mash-up. From Banquo's Australian Outback Chic to Malcolm's Yalie Plaid, one wonders if this postmodern approach is effective in capturing the disparate essences of character without asking the audience to work too hard.

Doubtless one of the biggest surprises of the night is the standout performance by child actor Hallie Strange, who is an utter delight as the forthright progeny of Macduff. Strange's obvious comfort with the text is a testament to the quality of work being done with youth in Shakespeare programs at her alma mater, the EmilyAnn Theatre in Wimberley.

Although music is almost entirely absent during the show proper, Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" proves a fitting way to close the night, with a nod to the grisly infanticide from Act Two. In sum, the performances here are certainly strong enough to warrant the trip down far east Manor, but one would do well to brush up on the play beforehand if it's been awhile.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Macbeth
TV Eye
TV Eye
Fall Fail?

Belinda Acosta, May 28, 2010

Arts Reviews
Austin Shakespeare's staging is strong but at times is lost in its own sound and fury

Avimaan Syam, Sept. 19, 2008

More Austin theatre
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in <i>Tales of a Blerd Ballerina</i>
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in Tales of a Blerd Ballerina
The actress looks back at what it was to be young, geeky, and Black

Robert Faires, April 9, 2021

Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Art Review: “Masters: Calder and Dalí”
Art Review: “Masters: Calder and Dalí”
Rare gems get the chance to shine at Ao5

Cat McCarrey, July 19, 2024

Art Review: “Encounters in the Garden”
Art Review: “Encounters in the Garden”
Laredo-based artist renders open interaction with the unfamiliar

Lina Fisher, July 12, 2024

More by Stacy Alexander Evans
One With Others
Karen Sherman's surprisingly funny, moving dance and text work was poetry in motion

May 2, 2014

Romeo and Juliet
Despite some casting questions, the Baron's Men create a moving and involving version of this well-known tragedy

April 18, 2014


Macbeth, Austin theatre, City Theatre, Kevin Gates, Cara Juan, Hallie Strange

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle