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Hunter College’s Hunter Theater Project, which mounts professional productions under the auspices of the school’s drama department, got under way in high style in the fall of 2018 with Richard Nelson’s intimate staging of his own adaptation of “Uncle Vanya,” one of the three or four finest Chekhov productions I’ve ever seen. This season it’s presenting an 85-minute “Macbeth” of like originality and stature, performed in a tiny 122-seat theater on a thrust stage that puts the actors in your lap. Adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt and performed by a seven-woman ensemble cast, “Mac Beth” (as Ms. Schmidt’s production is officially titled) had two previous runs before coming to Hunter College, at Seattle Repertory Theatre and New York’s Red Bull Theater, both of which generated considerable buzz. Now I know why.
Freely inspired by a 2014 crime in which two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls stabbed a companion to death, “Mac Beth” takes place in what looks like the back yard of a condemned house on the wrong side of the tracks. Enter seven giggly, selfie-snapping schoolgirls in tartan uniforms who are—or so it seems—the very picture of radiant innocence. It appears that they’re acting out “Macbeth” for their own pleasure…
But why here? Why now? Answer comes there none: We’re simply presented with the girls and their improvised show, which is wonderfully well acted and spoken, especially by Macbeth (Brittany Bradford, who is surely a star in the making) and Lady Macbeth (Ismenia Mendes, one of New York’s most outstandingly gifted young actors), neither of whom would have any trouble essaying her part in a more conventional production….
Right from the start, you accept the members of the cast as slightly ditsy teenagers, and a fair amount of time slips by before you start to understand that something is very, very wrong with these adorable girls—that they are not playing “Macbeth” but living it, and doing so for keeps. Then the momentum doubles and redoubles, the stage grows slick with rain and blood…and I wouldn’t think of telling you what happens next. Suffice it to say that this ends up being the most shocking “Macbeth” since the Two River Theater Company 2008 spook-show version that was jointly and brilliantly staged by Teller (of Penn & Teller) and Aaron Posner, all the more so because you’re so totally disarmed by what has come before….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for Red Bull Theater’s 2019 mounting of Mac Beth: