Friday, Jun 23, 2017

Macbeth (2009)

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

The web page for this year’s production of Macbeth at Oregon Shakespeare Festival contain a line whose like I don’t recall: “there are scenes of witchcraft, the slaughter of a mother and her children, and a decapitated head. There is violence, sensuality and disturbing imagery in the production.” Sure enough, this is an intense, savage performance of the Scottish Play.

Every aspect of the production seems marked with an exclamation point, usually with verve but once or twice with questionable results. Director Gale Edwards and his design team (Scenic Designer Scott Bradley, CostumeDesigner Murell Horton, Lighting Designer Mark McCullough and Sound Designer Todd Barton) have put together one of the most, well, “theatrical” productions in years, but the question needs to be answered, with apologies to the bard: is the production full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

Peter Macon returns for his second season at OSF in the title role here, thanks to either a fortuitous coincidence or an aggressive recruiting campaign – he had said to Bill Rauch last year that if he (Rauch) ever had the opportunity to work with director Gale Edwards he should leap at it. Lo and behold, Edwards comes aboard to direct this season’s Macbeth and Macon, who worked with Edwards two years ago in a production of Titus Andronicus in Washington D.C., is back in another eponymous Shakespearean role following last year’s Othello. Reviewing Mr. Macon’s work is going to be a pointless task in the near future if it isn’t so already; of any recent company member, his performances seem to be the most polarizing. In my conversations (participated in or overheard) and on the Internet, reviews of him are never mild. Some believe he has an admirable command of the stage and a diction suited to the heavier Shakespearean roles. Others think he is incapable of anything short of bombast and that he lacks subtlety. To date, I fall squarely in the first camp and I thoroughly enjoyed his Macbeth. Contrary to his nay-sayers, I found his ability to “bring it down” within the confines of the Angus Bowmer theatre more than sufficient to the challenges of his role, while the great speeches and moments of surety are happily within his wheelhouse.

His counterpoint in this production, Robin Goodrin Nordli as Lady Macbeth, delivers a hot-blooded performance in her own right. A woman clearly in love with her husband, if sometimes exasperated with him as well, Ms. Nordli’s Lady Macbeth is a high-strung opportunist. The audience that I saw this performance with was clearly engaged by her, but the vibrating tension she held onto for most of the play made it difficult for this viewer to involve himself. The fine performances of Kevin Kenerly (Macduff), Jeany Park (Lady Macduff) and Rex Young (Banquo) in particular also entertain and enliven the performance, but for better or worse the true stars of the production are the production values themselves.