The political is personal
Wilkerson Theatre (formerly The California Stage)1723 25th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
The thane of Glamis and Cawdor is indeed resurrected in Resurrection Theatre’s strangely contemporary vision of a land torn by struggle and war, and she is quickly overtaken by events. Some truths, apparently, are timeless and genderless: The belief that our fates lie in our control is a delusion that, once shattered, is always a bloody disaster.
The credit for Macbeth: Resurrected lies firmly in the visionary adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by Eric Baldwin (the troupe’s former artistic director and a gifted local actor), and in the equally visionary direction of Benjamin T. Ismail. One thinks of Macbeth as a large, sweeping drama, as much historical epic as intimate tragedy. Yet the play as reimagined here is intimate, dwelling on the misshapen, ghostly forms that love and ambition take when they are warped by complex desire.
And desire is certainly an undercurrent in the passion-fraught exchanges between Macbeth (the incredible Tygar Hicks) and her power-grasping, manipulative mother, Lady Macbeth (Margaret Morneau, in a chilling and disturbing performance that redefines the role). It’s an interpretation of the mother-daughter relationship that gives the Oedipus complex a wrenching twist, with power taking the place of lust while retaining some of its trappings. The Lady’s milk has indeed turned to gall, and its effects are seen all too clearly on her rampaging child turned king.
One of the treasures of this interpretation lies in its clear distinction between parenting types: Not all mothers are bad, and not all fathers are good. Lady Macduff (Ally Krumm) presents an upright version of (impending) motherhood, opposite Macduff’s (Scott Divine) upright-in-all-matters father, husband and soldier. Banquo (Jouni Kirola) is, although tempted by Macbeth, devoted to his own child to the end. But Duncan (Jes Gonzales), father to both his people and the crown prince, Malcolm (Brandon Lancaster), and what we see in their relationship is a less tumultuous and emotional version of the Macbeth family—a devotion that is more corporate than filial.
Ultimately, though, the show belongs to Hicks, who is without doubt the most sympathetic Macbeth to strut and fret her hours upon the stage in this critic’s memory. Her warrior king is both vulnerable and savage, a wounded child with a knife in her hand; her performance carries echoes of the damaged child soldiers of many a contemporary bloody little war. Hicks is an actor to keep an eye on, for it’s a sure bet she’s too gifted to be local for long.
Director Ismail keeps things moving, resulting in an epic play that comes in at under two hours and doesn’t need a degree in English to follow. His interpretation of the witches is certainly innovative. Taken beyond the three Weird Sisters, in this production they serve both as seers and stagehands in apparently blood-stained hooded robes and carnivalesque masks. Their silent contributions to the play might at first seem like a strange sort of “dancing with ghosts,” but quickly become a ritualistic counterpoint to the emotional carnage onstage.
Ismail also gets credit for the graceful (yet deceptively simple) set, with Ionic columns on wheels that are moved about to indicate a change of location, and a draped, inset throne room that changes with the regime.
The negative points are minor: a few lighting glitches that will no doubt be quickly corrected, as they tend to leave the speakers in shadow during some early, crucial scenes; and a nagging sense of claustrophobia. The Wilkerson is intimate enough to feel as if we’re in Lady Macbeth’s bedchamber as she works her manipulative “mommie dearest” ways on her daughter, but it does feel cramped during battle and court scenes.
Perhaps that’s for the best, in that it reminds us how all politics ultimately begins in that smallest of spaces: the family.