Macbeth

October 19, 2018

in Plays

Play (1606)
by William Shakespeare

In a Modern Verse Translation
by Migdalia Cruz

Directed by Dawn M. Simmons

Set Design: Jon Savage; Sound Design: Elizabeth Cahill; Lighting Design: Laura Hildebrand; Costume Design: Rachel Padula-Shufelt

Actors’ Shakespeare Project
The United Parish in Brookline
Brookline, MA
September 26 – November 11, 2018

With Nael Nacer (Macbeth), Paige Clark (Lady Macbeth), Maurice Parent (Banquo), Ed Hoopman (Macduff), Steven Barkhimer (Duncan), Kai Tshikosi (Malcolm), Alex Casillas (Ross), Jade Guerra (Lady Macduff), Trinidad Ramkissoon (Lennox), Shanelle Villegas (Fleance)

Nael Nacer as Macbeth, Jordan Clark as Lady Macbeth in 'Macbeth'

Nael Nacer as Macbeth
Paige Clark as Lady Macbeth
in “Macbeth”
Photo: Nile Scott Shots
Courtesy of Actors’ Shakespeare Project

An excellent production of a nicely “translated” version of the great Scottish tragedy about a leader who just could not keep his ego in check.

We all know how it goes. Macbeth (Nael Nacer), a lord devoted to his king, Duncan (Steven Barkhimer), and successful in war, gets an earful from a bunch of witches who say he’ll become king. With extreme encouragement from his wife, Lady Macbeth (Paige Clark) – they’re the original co-dependent couple – he manages to get rid of Duncan, slip into a crown, and wait for the fateful predictions of the witches to come true. Meanwhile, his close ally, Banquo (Maurice Parent), who Macbeth treats none too nicely, comes back to comment on the goings on.

This is a great production of a verse adaptation of Macbethby Migdalia Cruz, which, to my ears, sounded close enough to the original to not be offensive. I’m sure that for Shakespeare purists this is an adulteration, but I found the adaptation quite nice and digestible, and all the major arias seemed relatively untrammeled by the manipulations.

There is some really wonderful acting here.

Nael Nacer as Macbeth, Maurice Parent as Banquo in 'Macbeth'

Nael Nacer as Macbeth
Maurice Parent as Banquo
in “Macbeth”
Photo: Nile Scott Shots
Courtesy of Actors’ Shakespeare Project

Nael Nacer continues to reveal the expanse of his talents in this complex and difficult role. Having been cast, for a long time, in a lot of nice-guy roles, Nacer has now come further into his own with a series of more complicated ones. This role, of course, is among the most complicated, and he pulls it off with a great deal of subtlety and artistry. Amazingly, he brings the audience towards a kind of sympathy with his subject by conveying so adeptly the way in which Macbeth’s mind and spirit get bent and warped at various points. The base of Macbeth’s character, as Nacer portrays it, is fragile. It’s not malevolence that does him in, according to this reading, but a kind of vulnerability that is incapable of holding to its standards at the appropriate points. He is, by this reading, the perfect Nazi, taken up in the swirl of grandiosity when it’s presented to him, though underneath, one might argue, is just a relatively okay guy.

Put together with his lovely wife’s encouragement, Macbeth’s demons come to the fore. In the role of Lady Macbeth, Paige Clark also does a tremendous job, giving her a resilience and determination that has more to do with the coherent alignment of willpower than anything else. Shakespeare’s artistry enables us to see her wither under the weight of guilt and finally do her in. The amazing thing is how vividly Clark portrays that determination while, again, conveying it more like willpower gone wild than pure evil in the making.

Nael Nacer as Macbeth, and Ensemble in 'Macbeth'

Nael Nacer as Macbeth
with Ensemble
in “Macbeth”
Photo: Nile Scott Shots
Courtesy of Actors’ Shakespeare Project

The directorial sense offered by Dawn M. Simmons has clearly given dimension to this production and to the principal roles involved. There are also many other good performances here. Maurice Parent as Banquo is vivid and eloquent, Steven Barkhimer as Duncan – and a few other things – quizzically vulnerable, and Kai Tshikosi has a wonderful and eloquent turn as Malcolm. The witches are also terrific and there is fine backup along the way from Ed Hoopman, whose resonant Macduff provides tragic and moral clout, ,with Alex Casillas, Trinidad Ramkssooon and Shanelle Villegas filling out the penetrating landscape.

The sound design for the show by Elizabeth Cahill is really terrific – consisting of some offbeat oboe and harpsichord riffs that make the Shakespearean tragedy feel a lot like a Baroque murder drama, but in a good way.

And, though simple, the costumes by Rachel Padula-Shufelt are beautifully and artfully designed.

All around this is a very successful production exhibiting an inventive interpretation, straightforward though excellent production values, and a lot of wonderful acting.

– BADMan

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