|Macbeth and Husband Macbeth (Minino and Stallings)|
Macbeth (Of the Oppressed) is not your great-great-great grandmother’s Shakespeare. Or is it? A man – Husband Macbeth, played masterfully by David Stallings—speaks those chilling words “Come to my woman's breasts, and take my milk for gall,” and some have expressed dismay about this gender- and other culture-bending choices by Director Tom Slot in this production at the 14th Street Y. But let’s think back to the history of who the original players were—young and old men playing at being women and everyone else. How revolutionary is that? Macbeth has survived the test of time because of its universal message, which goes way beyond gender and contemporary politics of any particular time. This casting is radical, not because it follows a trend, but because it gets to the root of human questions.
Here’s the way the casting looks on paper: Featuring a cast of eight women and eight men. Starring Olev Aleksander as Malcolm, James Edward Becton* as Second Witch, Susan G. Bob* as Queen Duncan, Adam Galloway Brooks as Son, Jennifer Fouché* as First Witch, Taylor Graves as Lady Macduff, Antonio Minino as Macbeth, Elisabeth Preston* as Banquo, Briana Sakamoto* as Third Witch, Shetal Shah* as Porter, Lavita Shaurice* as Third Witch, Jacob Stafford as Fleance, David Stallings as Husband Macbeth, Jonathan West as Lennox, and Stephanie Willing as Donalbain.
Each of these actors is well trained and committed; they rise to the challenge of performing Shakespeare with especially moving, stand-up performances delivered by Minino, Stallings, and Preston.
Director Tom Slot had a method to what some might view as his madness in these redeveloped roles: “In order for theatre to be truly impactful it needs to hold a mirror to the audience and reflect the times we live in and the shared human condition that unites us all.” His production complements his vision. I left the theatre thinking about the essence of “the tale,” rather than worrying idiotically over the players’ identities.
The production team deserves tremendous credit for realizing this vision. Fight Choreographer, Chester Poon, capitalized on the individual strengths of the actors—the women were no less savage than the men; Izzy Fields’ costume designs signified roles and status through elegance without any trace of camp. A special recognition should go to Daniel Gallagher who uses the entire room to create (a) shadow play that engulfs the audience in its encroaching terrors long before the classic Burnham wood approach.
When you enter the theater, you know you are in for an evening of doom. Collin Bradley (Line Producer) confronts by an almost heraldic bloodbath on the floor, you face an ominous uniset of simple set of blocks that prove to be equally suited to form the court scenes and the witches’ lair. The depiction of the bloodbath is varied and intriguing. Jacob Subotnick’s sound design ices the harrowing journey. Rachel Denise April (Stage Manager) rises ably to the challenge of managing the mayhem.
So, you could get sidetracked by the questions of casting and plot tweaks here, but you’d be paying attention to lesser issues. A history of The Globe documents that women were not permitted to act on the stage in England until 1660, well after Shakespeare’s time. This is a cast for our time.
Finally, Shakespeare’s language and the performance of it transcends that narrow focus, sending up political correctness even as it tries to assert new possibilities for all genders.
If you watch and listen, you will see and hear an extraordinary Macbeth. The lesson here is that the passions transcend individual human concerns; they are universal. With non-traditional casting, comes the equal opportunity right to suffer…jealousy, hate, rage, greed, lust, power, love, and, the mostly absent, joy of life belong to all of us. See Macbeth (of the Oppressed) to appreciate the language, the acting, and, most importantly the contemporary message about the human condition. If “life is a tale told by an idiot,” I’d choose this company to explain it to me, signifying everything.
MACBETH (OF THE OPPRESSED) will play a three-week limited engagement at The Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 East 14th Street at 1st Avenue, Manhattan). Performances begin Thursday, October 8th and continue through Saturday, October 24th. Opening Night is Saturday, October 10th at 8 p.m.
|Macbeth tormented by the witches.|