LENOX, Mass. The production of “Macbeth” at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass. through August 5, is visually compelling, fascinatingly staged and articulate. But oddly, and rather sadly, this drama about a brutal tyrant who becomes a victim of his own ambitions is emotionally empty. Directed by Melia Bensussen, the work is an examination of the title character’s mental state as he assumes power by his assassination of the king and eventually the murder of all others he sees as a threat to his power.
As interpreted by Jonathan Croy, Macbeth is a physically imposing man made fragile by the inner workings of his mind. Through moments of internal reflection we learn that this warrior acts upon every thought that comes into his head. Rarely is there regret, but sometimes there is second-guessing. The man is consumed by ambition, driven by paranoia and fed by insecurity.
The Shakespeare & Company production focuses on the cost of acting on impulses, especially those spawned by less-than-honorable cravings. The play pivots when the once honorable warrior Macbeth, spurred on by his wife Lady Macbeth, assassinates King Duncan in order to usurp the throne. No matter how much the couple lie and murder, their subsequent actions cannot be shrouded. Their only choice is to continue on the same path, no matter how bloody. The play points out that doom is the inevitable finale for such deeds.
Croy is an articulate Macbeth and the static nature of the presentation forces you to realize how many monologues the man delivers. This is a dangerous choice as it reduces the action in the play and makes the man seem weak. However, when that actor has the skills of Croy, it also becomes a wonderful opportunity to hear the beautiful, wise words of Shakespeare intimately and without distractions.
Director Bensussen seems intent on bringing the production in at two hours including an intermission, which she does. This means editing, even what is Shakespeare’s shortest play. Gone are the trio of witches – or, at times, reduced to one. A brilliant choice is to have their second act appearance be in the form of Macbeth’s victims.
Gone too is a lot of the violence as most of the murders take place off-stage. Also missing is the murder scene between Macbeth and two guards after the king’s assassination. Some are worthy sacrifices, but not all. Eliminated and sorely missed is the savage slaughter of Macduff’s innocent family. The presentation needs such horrific visuals for the audience to fully grasp Macbeth’s cruelty However, the biggest loss in this effort is the relationship between Macbeth and his wife. Played with calm and intelligence by Tod Randolph, this Lady Macbeth is not a shrew who bullies her husband into committing horrific deeds. She is certainly culpable, but she is merely a wife who knows her husband and urges him to act for what he wants. Their relationship lacks sensuality or drive, and they appear to be an old married couple who know each other too well. It makes Lady Macbeth less visible, and pushes the role to being a minor supporting character
Indeed, with only a nine member cast everyone seems a minor character. Standing out is the always delightful Nigel Gore in several roles, but especially shines as the porter. Also excellent are Thomas Brazzle as Macduff and Ella Loudon as Banquo.
This is an extremely internal vision of “Macbeth” which is both intriguing for its point of view and frustrating because of its limitations. At the very least, it’s thoughtful theater.
“Macbeth” through August 5 at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass. Tickets and schedule information at 413-637-3353 or shakespeare.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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