Dallas — The true greatness of Shakespeare’s plays lies in their near-universality despite time and place and because they can withstand almost any interpretation, no matter how bizarre. For instance, you could have chanting and incanting Amazon Jungle “witches” on the same stage as Google Glass-wearing techno-warriors making billion-dollar deals in iambic pentameter and it is still unmistakably Shakespeare.
Shakespeare Dallas’ flawed production of Macbeth is definitely “weird,” but you could see where it could work had everything come together. They hit all of the beats and the language soars under the stars at the park; however, incompatible and just straight-up confusing visions of the play minimize the final product.
Director Trampas Thompson tries to meld two worlds into his unique version of Macbeth. One world involves the indigenous people of the Amazon Jungle, or Brujas who are a “dreaming culture who use ancient plant medicines to connect to the Source of All Creation.” The other world is the near future where “giant tech companies create the newest technological creations…for corporate dominance.” The latter world also has a dream inside it from the Brujas of the former world. Make sense yet?
Shakespeare’s Three Witches are now the Brujas (Sakyiwaa Baah, Robin Clayton, and Tia Laulusa) and they remain onstage for the entire play, sometimes interacting with characters but mostly doing their own witchy things.
The story remains the same, so Macbeth (Timothy Thomas Brown) still hurtles toward murderous prophecies of ambition, but now he must do so amongst a hipster apocalypse of hoodies and statement tees (costume design by Bri Tobin), on a landscape of hexagonal structures of burgundy and brown with a circuit board design motif. There are also two monitors for breaking news and close circuit television feeds (set design by Robert Winn).
Nearly all characters wear lighted glasses and goggles (remember, technology!) and sport sound effect-driven fight apparatuses. As strange as that sounds, the fighting is riveting; Thompson has extensive experience in fight choreography and stunt work. Another clever touch is the The Voice of Sirrah (Korey Kent), a disembodied Siri-type voice who delivers news to the characters.
Every good production of Macbeth depends on a strong ensemble to transform the theater into a kingdom of grim horror. SD’s casts have gotten stronger over the years but this one is uneven. Stellar leads are also necessary for the tragedy to work. Nicole Berastequi’s Lady Macbeth is a conjuration of talent. When she claims of her own baby she would have “plucked my nipple from his boneless gums / And dashed the brains out,” you believe her.
On the other hand, Brown’s Macbeth is disappointing. He comes off as bewildered and slight; never a warrior nor a future king. Maybe it’s the mixing of the worlds that is affecting him.
Shawn Gann provides welcome hilarity as the pickled porter/Sexton. Kudos should also go to Marti Etheridge, who creates two distinct and delightful characters (Lady Macduff/Gentlewoman) back-to-back. Please cast her in more roles, ye Theater Gods.
“Life’s but a walking shadow” and this production is only a reflection of something that could have been scary-good in any world.