The main problem I had with the production of MacBeth we went to see tonight was that the title character looked so much like Breaking Bad's Walter White. In fact, if he had a pork pie hat, you'd have been hard pressed to tell the difference.
The review is going to be difficult to write because I liked a lot of it, but there were a lot of reasons not to like it. It was like the difference between Star Trek, the original series, and Star Trek the movie, where we get to know Kirk and Spock and all the other familiar characters in their youth. In the TV show, they didn't rely on high tech stuff to make a point. In fact, it's pretty laughably low tech, by today's standards. Now, though, they have perfected CGI and blowing up stuff and people seem to expect the special effects, and so the movie was more about this or that special effect than it was about the development of the characters.
So it was with MacBeth (which I refuse to call "The Scottish Play," because I'm not in the theatre and I think it's an affectation to do so otherwise!) (According to a theatrical superstition, called the "Scottish curse," speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition forbids direct quotation of the play (except during rehearsals) while inside a theater.)
This was a revised version (which already is suspect...who revises Shakespeare?) which was set in some post-apocalyptic time when everyone is at war with everyone, but apparently all the guns have been destroyed because they are still fighting with swords and daggers. But everybody is dirty and torn all the time. And some men's roles are played by women, which is disconcerting especially when talking about "Banquo's seed," when Banquo was played by a woman.
They shortened the script a lot and I don't know the play well enough to be able to know when they cut lines or scenes the way I could do if they truncated any Gilbert & Sullivan play. But Lady MacBeth never wailed that the perfumes of Arabia couldn't sweeten her little hand...her famous speech was cut short.
But it was powerful. And intense. And that was a big problem...there was no nuance in it. It was an intense ride from the GetGo. It seemed that they went from MacBeth being named Thane of Cawdor to Lady MacB instantly deciding to kill the king. There was no lead up to it. "Hi, Honey, I'm home." "Good--go kill the king." Whereupon this towering hulk of a man becomes a quivering idiot afraid of his own shadow. It was just....too much.
And the three witches suffered from excessive technological assistance. Their voices were run through some sort of synthesizer, designed, I guess, to make them sound more "other worldly," though they sounded so other worldly that you couldn't understand what they were saying. And in Act 2, either the special effect gizmo failed or they were allowed to use their own voices for clarity, but they had so much head gear on that it was like trying to speak through a heavy curtain and so they were difficult to hear.
We had gone to the show with the Grand Old Man of Sacramento Theater, a 90 year old friend who had performed with the likes of Katharine Hepburn and a host of other luminaries in his day. His apartment is filled with such mementos he could charge admission to let theater afficionados come in and just browse.
When the show was over, I asked him what he thought. "Not much," he said and went on to explain that in their desire to reshape the show and give it a unique quality, they had forgotten the power of Shakespeare's words. I was glad to have my opinion backed by a competent authority. I knew that I was disturbed by the production, but couldn't put my finger on why.
At the after-show reception, Lady MacBeth, whom I consider the grand dame of Sacramento theater, came to where we were sitting. She's a longtime friend of my friend and they are in the process of creating a special project together next year. He started telling her of his complaints about the show, though told her she was the only one in the cast who got Shakespeare's words "right."
She told him he should not talk in front of me because I would take what he had to say and write it in my review.
Actually, even if I could remember all that he said, I couldn't do it because I don't have the expertise in Shakespeare to get it right. But he did kind of tacitly give me "permission" to complain about the show and his words pointed out to me why I was uncomfortable with a lot of it. I valued his opinion.
We had some of the goodies at the opening night party. I fell in love with a huge bowl of hummus. I'm not ordinarly a great hummus eater, but this was almost as good as some that I had on our cruise, which I thought at the time was some of the best hummus I'd ever tasted. The wife of another critic told me she thought it was from Costco, so now I have to go to Costco and buy hummus.