nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
December 2, 2010
Mortal Folly Theatre, a company just over an year old, presents a highly polished Macbeth as its second ever production. Katherine Harte-DeCoux, the company's artistic director and director of the present production, introduces her classic rendition of Shakespeare's classic with a likeable spirit of humility that continues throughout the performance—she scrubs floors between takes, moves props, and plays the drums (extremely well) from the wings. Her cast/crew exude the same sense of willingness, and together give us a production that is no less enjoyable for its faithfulness to the original text and is greatly strengthened by excellent production values and a few chilling performances.
Scenic designer and our play's Malcolm, John Short, has created a multi-level, versatile set out of a small space that is surprisingly suited for the game physicality exhibited by the cast. Similarly, every other technical aspect of the production is so well-executed that the right tone of each turn of the great tragedy is consistently channeled. Original music and sound by Amanda Gookin is equally atmospheric in intimate scenes and frightening ones. Occasionally, the cast's competent performance is rendered into something truly superior by these mechanics. In one scene where the murdered Banquo's ghost stands bloodily over a haunted Macbeth, Nicole Scandiffio's makeup and Bekah Hernandez's sea of red lighting catapults the play from a capable rendition to a truly evocative one.
Most of us are familiar with this tale of a man driven to terrible ends by his "vaulting ambition"—and his iron-willed wife. After hearing three witches prophesy that he would be king, honorable Macbeth is goaded into making it so by murdering the current king, Duncan, to take his place, and is forced to commit murder upon murder to secure his position as such. Eventually, Lady Macbeth is driven to insanity and he is driven to the edges of inhuman cruelty and arrogance that proves to be his doom. Matthew Rini turns in a very decent performance in the title role and happily hits his best stride in the famous "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" speech. Liz Sklar gives one of the three best performances in the cast, presenting a Lady Macbeth who uses a deadly sensuality rather than verbal persuasion to appeal to the basest aspects of Macbeth's nature. David A. Ellis as Banquo and Mark August as Macduff also turn in superior performances—the latter's fight sequences in the penultimate scene with Macbeth and henchman are as excitingly executed as any I've seen on the independent stage.
Despite being just over two and a half hours long, Macbeth never feels too long, which is an equal testament to the original playwright and its current presenters. I admire the artistic restraint shown by Mortal Folly Theatre in its treatment of an immortal play. Due to its fidelity, this would be a terrific production for anyone new to the play to see, but it wouldn't bore anyone who is already familiar with the material. I am very much looking forward to seeing where this company goes next.