Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Macbeth in Staccato

From the first lines of text delivered in rapid-fire Polish to the pervasive punctuation of gun fighting, the TR Warszawa Macbeth staged at an outdoor venue beneath the Brooklyn Bridge is characterized by a relentlessly staccato quality. The language of this version bears little resemblance to Shakespeare's text--and when parts of the play's monologues are spliced in, they seem incongruous with their context. The production, which interprets Macbeth in light of the Iraq War and other recent military exploits, turns the play not as much from language to plot, but rather from language, plot, or character, to spectacle and sound. Although a more innovative and intriguing rendition of Macbeth than the version starring Kelsey Grammer a couple of years ago, which simply strung together the major monologues, this nearly opposite take still left me unsatisfied.

The most suggestive part of the production was its decision to segment the stage into four parts, with two levels on each side. The bottom left hand quadrant doubled as something like a locker room--where hoses were used often to try to wash out the prolific quantities of blood--and a banquet space where Banquo's ghost could appear at dinner. On the right side, a laundry room appeared, predictably deployed to try to rinse the blood stains from seemingly vast white sheets as Lady Macbeth wondered whether she could ever get the spot out. During certain moments, activities in two or more quadrants complemented each other in interesting ways. Hence, when the only witch left in this version (doubling as a Muslim woman who, when unveiled, turns out to be bald and dressed in fuschia) tells Macbeth his wife's obsession with the spot is incurable, we see her below in the laundry room, eventually hung on the very sheet she is attempting to clean.

Another powerful moment occurred with the appearance of Banquo's ghost. The ghost is not attired in some elaborate costume--instead, he simply appears stark naked, except for his boots (he died with his boots on?). This very human-looking, but bare, figure is indeed much more terrifying than a stereotypical ghost, and Macbeth's horror seems well placed. Even the impact of this moment was, however, soon eclipsed by the forward driving force of the production. Perhaps the pace of war is not the best for theater.

1 comment:

Mojave Joe said...

Looks like Shakespeare IS our contemporary.

"Macbeth does not show history as the Grand Mechanism. It shows it as a nightmare."

Jan Kott, Shakespeare Our Contemporary, Boleslaw Taborski, trans. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1974), 88-89.