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Macbeth (Review)

Cincinnati Shakespeare production is a strange brew

By Harper Lee · October 19th, 2011 · Onstage
onstage__macbeth_cincyshakes_saraclark_nickrose_photojeanavellaSara Clark and Nick Rose - Photo by Jeana Vella
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s tragedy has bursts of chemistry and feeling mingled with drowsy places where the language washes over your brain, and the staging feels perfunctory. Macbeth has been given a contemporary setting, but it’s hard to see what the update adds to the play. Actors have different props — machine guns not swords, buzzing cell phones, ammo, camo and laptop computers. Multiple press conferences report as the crown changes hands.

Sara Clark’s striking performance as the conniving Lady Macbeth is engrossing and brimming with evil ambition at the start. A knockout in sequins and red lipstick, her sway over her waffling husband is easy to understand. Nick Rose brings an unexpected everyman quality to Macbeth. You see good in his face and hear it in his voice, but his kindness doesn’t stand a chance again his seductive wife.

These two actors are married, and onstage together they have real chemistry. Her progression from a bloodthirsty murderess to an unhinged maniac is well paced and particularly heartbreaking. For much of the play Brent Vimtrup’s Macduff is a reservoir of restraint in the chaos. He ultimately boils over after Macbeth murders his family. 

The unearthly chanting of witches Miranda McGee, Kelly Mengelkoch and Jolin Polasek has hypnotic moments, but their costumes were distracting. In belted purple dresses and choreographed movement, they look like a Banana Republic ad or a really odd girl group. Later, Banquo (Ian Bond) and his son Fleance (Demecos Hill) run across the stage from a gang of murderers in slow motion; what should be a painful moment feels almost silly. 

Macbeth is a violent play, dark, twisted, tragic, without redemption in the end. There is no all-consuming love story or noble, articulate hero. It’s a horror story, loaded with witchcraft, war, ghosts, murder, insanity and plenty of blood.

MACBETH, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, continues through Nov. 20. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.



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