Macbeth Without Words
nytheatre.com review by James Comptois
June 15, 2007
Macbeth Without Words delivers exactly what it promises: a performance of William Shakespeare's tragedy about the overly ambitious usurping Scottish king who gets his comeuppance, with nary a line spoken.
Jeff Lewonczyk expertly adapts and directs an all-movement pantomime performance of Macbeth that is both lucid and mesmerizing. A tight ensemble cast tells the story through dance, silent film-style gestures, and cartoon violence. Ryan Holsopple's brilliant soundscape blends ominous ambient noise with a synthesized score reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti's work. Even if you're not familiar with the play (hey, there may be someone reading this review who isn't), this is a coherent and engaging show that I feel confident in recommending.
Am I making it clear that I think this is not only a well-made show, but also great fun?
Consider the scene depicting the three murderers ambushing and murdering Banquo, which is performed through deliberately slow movements as the murderers pile up on him as he tries (and ultimately fails) to break free. It's hypnotic and poetic, not unlike watching a cross between an interpretive dance and a slow-motion death scene from a film.
Also, Macbeth's—I have no other way to describe it—"Crazyface Angrymarch" (looking quite intense and crazy, holding up his sword, and marching in place) as he gets ready to defend his kingdom had me in stitches, especially when he convinces others to get ready for battle (insisting they mimic his Crazyface Angrymarch).
Although the entire cast is excellent across the board, I have to point out two performers in particular who really sell the show: Bryan Enk as Banquo and Fred Backus as Macbeth. Their facial expressions and postures are so dynamic and communicative you can tell exactly what's going on with their characters every time they're on the stage. You know who they are and what they're thinking and feeling. I buy Backus's Macbeth as a once-noble warrior crossing the line and going insane.
Fight choreographer Qui Nguyen brings his A-Game to the ultimate showdown between Macbeth and Macduff, combining Braveheart-style barbaric swordfighting with Matrix-style martial arts. At first, I vaguely wondered why Lewonczyk decided on cross-gender casting for Macduff. Then I saw Stacia French's swordplay and acrobatics. I stopped wondering.
Ultimately, I have only one minor quibble, and it's that the scene with the Porter goes on a bit too long. This is not to say that Katie Brack isn't amusing as the drunken doorman, but the scene does come close to outstaying its welcome and distracting from the story. Again, this is a very negligible criticism.
I really could go on and on, but then again I don't want to offer too many spoilers. My job is to report on what I see on the stage and what I think and feel about it, and I believe I've done that.
Macbeth Without Words is a whole lot of fun. Go see it.