Heather Raffo darts across the stage at the Zellerbach theater tearing down upon her maternal bosom with a look as demonic as any Shakespearean acting company bestows upon its devil in a blue dress.
Raffo steals the stage as Lady Macbeth, stocking up on all the maternal coldness which her character requires. Yet the passion and love she shows for Macbeth, played by Christopher Jean, is often too hot in contrast to Shakespeare’s frigidly inhumane tragedy.
The Acting Company’s presentation of Macbeth takes place not in the traditional Middle Ages Scottish setting, but in a seemingly Eastern European pre-World War period.
Dressed in full-length generals’ uniforms, which resemble those of the Gestapo, Macbeth, his king and his peers in war grace a plain stage decorated like a Siberian prison.
Macbeth enthusiasts will be surprised to see the witches of Scotland take on a more developed role, often acting out the murders at Macbeth’s command. Surprisingly they also offer up much of the comedy in this tragedy.
Yes, director Anne Justine D’Zmura manages to slide some comedy in amongst the constant gore, betrayal and deceit. And she is quite successful at it.
Fans of Shakespeare may be turned off by the frequent use of Ziplock and Hefty bags, not to mention all of Macduff’s many children being replaced by one single overgrown juvenile in a wheelchair who tries a little too hard to sound mentally deficient.
And Christopher Jean (Macbeth) seems a little too anxious to get out of those Sprocket-esque leotards under his uniform and show off his hairless, pale chest. At this point no one could believe the Jean was playing a war hero, let alone someone who could lift a sword not made of plastic.
For the ladies, D’Zmura’s Macbeth offers up one hell of a powerful female character. Not exactly the type of woman to look up to (i.e., the infanticidal and conniving accomplice to the murder of the king of Scotland) but nonetheless a future Wall Street power broker in a red dress.
Guys can indulge in the testosterone, the regicide, the blood, the gore and the glory that Macbeth first provided at the Globe in 1606.
“Yet I do fear thy nature is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way,” so in that case check out Shakespeare’s tour de force medieval Blair-Witch-Project-meets-Scotland. Just bring an umbrella if you’re going to sit close to the stage ’cause this one’s a slaughterhouse on stage set to iambic pentameter.