Aquila Theatre presents a different take on Macbeth
Published: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 4, 2012 22:06
William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is perhaps one of the English playwright’s most famous plays behind Romeo and Juliet.
This quintessential tale of ambition has gone through many incarnations on both the stage and screen – and many actors have been known to only refer to the show as “The Scottish Play,” because it is believed that merely uttering the name “Macbeth” onstage will bring bad luck.
However, there were no hints of this misfortune during the Aquila Theatre production.
The Gym at Judson played host to the show, and is quite similar to Baruch’s own Bernie West Theatre (only more spacious). The minimalist production hardly utilized any décor; however, this enhanced the experience of the play that much more – because, just as the company itself promotes, it “places Shakespeare’s language at its core.”
The acting from the predominantly seasoned British cast and the script truly commanded the stage – and the show, as a result, did not disappoint.
Actor Guy Oliver-Walls turned in quite a realistic performance of the titular character. At the start, the viewer could never expect that this kind and jovial character could succumb to such depths of cruelty against his king and his closest friend Banquo (played by Peter F. Gardiner).
This opinion, however, quickly changes when the audience meets Lady Macbeth, played by the petite yet powerful Rebecca Reaney. When the viewer is first introduced to Lady Macbeth, she is reading the letter the protagonist has sent, regarding his encounter with characters known as the weird sisters (the characters who prophesized his ascension to the throne).
It is in this scene that one sees how quickly she transforms from proud wife to ruthless conspirator.
Reaney’s performance is rife with nuance – even in the moment before she pleads with dark forces that have promised her husband’s fortune, the viewer can sense a tinge of shame in her movements as she nonchalantly takes off her cross-bearing necklace.
Reaney, without a doubt, commands every scene she is in with her delivery, coming from her very core, truly convincing the audience of her insatiable hunger for power.
Gardiner is another actor who merits applause, but more so for his versatility. One minute he is playing the gregarious friend of Macbeth, and the next he’s playing the hilariously drunk and belligerent gatekeeper.
Nevertheless, those who are unfamiliar with the play will undoubtedly welcome his character’s presence onstage, as he provides brash comic relief soon after the king’s murder.
Alongside the British actors was SUNY Purchase alum Aaron McDaniel, as the slain King Duncan’s son, Malcolm. However, McDaniel definitely held his own playing the conflicted young prince, struggling between quenching his thirst for vengeance and remaining true to his faith.
While the props and setting were quite sparse, the bareness of the stage and dramatic lighting effects really heightened the drama. Additionally, the fluidity of many of the actors’ movements also attributed to the strength of the scenes – although this may have to do with the director’s background as a ballerina.
With time spent as a dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House this influence clearly spilled over into her work with Macbeth. The actors’ shadows created dynamic and bold shapes which splashed across the walls dramatically.
The end battle saw Malcolm and his warriors charge towards Macbeth with their swords drawn in perfect formation, and then pause as Macbeth began to pick off all of those who were of “woman-born”.
As aforementioned, Sanchez’s background in dance really worked to the show’s benefit as it could have passed for a ballet for its visuals and blocking alone.
The pairing of her direction and the cast’s acting caliber truly made for an artistically dark, yet beautiful dynamic adaptation of Macbeth. And, for a show that ran for 2 hours and 20 minutes, for it to not have lagged at any point is quite a feat.
Macbeth is Aquila’s 21st season of Shakespeare and the production is part of a national program with Arts Midwest called Shakespeare for a New Generation.
For more information on getting tickets and the company’s touring schedule check out their website aquilatheatre.com.