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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Macbeth production uneven, few thrills

culture@dailylobo.com

The Vortex’s newest production of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” will make you laugh.

A lot.

Maybe that’s not a good thing.

Though truly, this is not a bad idea. Melodrama can be pushed easily and effectively to the point of comedy.

Perhaps a new musical comedy called “Maccers!” can be created, something like “West Side Story,” where the characters snap and dance until the hallucination, suicide, treachery, blood, black magic and children-murdering happens.

Macbeth is a show about bromances gone wrong. The mostly male cast spends their time bro-ing out or occasioning bro-ing down. It’s about men doing manly things and the Vortex’s cast possessed an impressive quality of beards, where it seems each person’s masculinity quotient is measured by their ability to grow said beard.

Stephen Zamora wins this contest handedly. His part of “Lennox” is small, but Zamora possesses a striking stage presence and authoritative gait which is natural and unmistakable.

Super-saxon-looking Dane Hjeresen stands out like a sore thumb against all the dark hairs and beards head-butting around onstage. Most of his deliveries are stilted and awkward, but his final speech is quite rousing and satisfying.

The crowning performance of the production is the hero Macduff played by Nic Ganjei. You feel his anger and his anguish, and when his fury in unleashed, Ganjei displayed a physical power which is admirable and easy to root for.

The part of Lady Macbeth is one coveted by female actors for her power, decisiveness and apparent moral ambiguity. Aleah Montano plays her well, particularly during her famous sleepwalking insanity (assisted by some fantastic hair and make-up), even if Montano looks confusingly similar to fellow actor Eleanor Smith.

As you may have gathered, “Macbeth” is a very violent show. Bleeding, stabbing, wrist-slashing and neck-breaking are just a few of the acts of brutality you are allowed to enjoy, in addition to the numerous pieces of violence that occur simply offstage. There are two major sword fights, the first being quite cheesy and impotent, but ending well with a murdered man on his knees being booted to the ground. The additional swashbuckling and murdering is thoroughly enjoyable.

Normally, the triplet witches are a high point of “Macbeth.” They add the feminine creepy contrast to all the real-world, chest-pounding and fist-punching of the manly mortal men. But from the opening scene, the witches are largely grating. Teddy Eggleston booms with sinister gravitas, but is unfortunately flanked by strained hamming, odd arm-flapping and some spinning about in a giant nutsack suspended from the ceiling.

And while the production, suffered from tonal issues and misplaced slapstick, its main issue is lifelessness. Many of the performances are drab and the lighting is noticeably safe and uninteresting. The flat, even lighting kills the sickly foreboding feeling the play attempts, too loudly illuminating a story that does nothing to grab your attention.

That is until the second act.

When the witches make their famous second appearance for the play’s most famous scene, suddenly it’s as though the play is directed by a different person.

The entire theater shakes with base, the lights dim and the room is flooded with bilious green light. The booming voiceover of the dark god Hecate is terrifying as lancing shafts of white burst in flares from all directions.

The scene is creative, captivating and unnerving.

It’s really quite spectacular.

But then almost immediately, the play forgets its originality, shifting back to its boring glare of the even lighting and mostly uninspired performance.

“Throne of Blood” this is not.

Though in fact, one of the most exciting choices made in the production is using the original setting of play and not falling to gimmick or ease by placing it in modern times, so all the royalty can simply wear suits—an unfortunately common and boring pitfall.

The Onion article “Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play in Time, Place Shakespeare Intended” comes to mind.

Designer Starr Edwell makes the costumes fresh and fun, with the men toting beautiful swords, bright and attractive plaid sashes, and manly charcoal skits.

While the production is not without merit, its value might be better served in the inevitable Broadway premiere of “Maccers!” with Tony’s abound for all involved.

Macbeth
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Leslee Richards
Part of Will Power 4: the Vortex Summer Shakespeare Festival
The Vortex Theatre
2004½ Central Ave. S.E.
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.
Runs through August 4th
$18 general
$12 students with ID.
All Thursday tickets are $12.
Visit www.vortexabq.org or call 505-247-8600 to make reservations.