Dark and anguished
There’s always plenty of gloom and doom in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Now, Capital Stage has brought back the company’s founder Stephanie Gularte as director for its first-ever Shakespeare production, and she’s written an original adaptation of the famous Scottish play that adds even more gloomy doom to the tale of treachery and madness.
Gularte takes the story of the 11th–century Scottish royal succession and projects it into a post-apocalyptic world gone mad. Gularte says she was influenced by the dark violence of both real life (9/11) and television series (Homeland, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad) and wanted to capture the mental, physical and emotional struggles of society gone awry.
So, this is a Macbeth stripped bare in storyline, script, characters, set and costumes. Gone is the emphasis on who will be next king, and in its place, Gularte spotlights the psychological battles of both Macbeths (Mr. and Mrs.) and the physical battles of dysfunctional despots and roving troupes of survivalists.
The success of the tonal and scripting tweaks of this adaptation of Macbeth is mixed—some aspects really work, others need some adjustments to achieve the intended visceral and emotional impact.
Scott Coopwood is Macbeth, and Janis Stevens is Lady Macbeth. Both have played their respective roles a number of times, though probably never like this. Coopwood is explosive, dynamic and emotionally bare—unforgettable, and so passionate, you can see his neck veins pop, though he could use a layer of subtlety at times. Stevens portrays one of the most powerful and devious women in all of theater history, and while she delivers her lines with dramatic confidence, she could add a bit of Breaking Bad badassness.
Perhaps the most obvious miscalculation is with the three witches who are central figures to the play and plot: Their prophecies and incantations give strength and meaning to the dire deeds of the Macbeths. But in this production, they are presented as mysterious figures who talk though gas masks and in strange Star Wars-villainesque voices, making it nearly impossible to understand their dialogue.
The production is fascinating, though, and there’s never a dull moment. The supporting cast delivers; the fight scenes are remarkable; the stage is stark and yet imaginative; and the lighting and sound effects bring forth the underlining pulsating beat of war, heart and mental anguish. It’s a Macbeth conveying the future—and the future ain’t pretty.