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I’ve reviewed “the Scottish play” (as it’s famously known to superstitious theater prople) 13 times in this space since 2005, and of those productions, only two were total duds. The rest enacted Shakespeare’s terrible tale of unchecked ambition in an uncommonly wide variety of ways. I’ve seen “Macbeth” performed by a gaggle of bloodthirsty schoolgirls, set in the Soviet Union during the Great Terror, even mounted in the manner of Japanese Noh theater. The possibilities it offers for cogent, creative reinterpretation appear to be endless…
While I’d hesitate to say which of those 13 “Macbeths” I liked best, the one of which I have the most indelibly specific memories is the version co-directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (Penn’s silent partner) in 2008 for New Jersey’s Two River Theater Company and the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, a live performance from the Washington run was recorded and is now streaming on the Folger’s website. Viewing it has confirmed all my impressions of the show, which I saw twice, once in each city, the second time purely for my pleasure. It is a “Macbeth” of explosive dynamism, a high-speed production running for just over two hours (the text has been extensively but discreetly trimmed) that is both flamboyant and essentially serious. The directors call it “a supernatural horror thriller,” which is true enough but a bit misleading. Stage magic, stage violence, stage blood: All are here in copious quantities, yet all illuminate, rather than obscuring, the play’s timeless truths about humankind’s flawed nature.
The stage magic is the most spectacular element of this “Macbeth,” as well as the one about which I can say the least without spoiling the endless surprises that Teller has pulled out of his bottomless bag of tricks: Vanishing actors, floating daggers that materialize out of thin air, even a pre-show announcement that is…well, let’s just say interrupted and leave it at that….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for Macbeth: