Macbeth: A Musical Adaptation

“By the pricking of my thumb/ something wicked this way comes.”  Wicked and wonderful that is!  Green Globe Theatre is offering a show this weekend and next that is a modern adaptation of the classic Shakespearean tragedy.  This isn’t your typical Macbeth, it is 90s LA with grunge, and police commissioners, and three witches that will haunt your dreams.

Before we begin the review, I have to warn all of you- I don’t think you understand the level of obsession I have with the play Macbeth.  I am a dork.  Like big huge book-reading literary dork.  And this is my favorite Shakespeare play by a landslide.  Others are great, but this is my heart song.  I have multiple Macbeth inspired tattoos (ask me, I’ll show them to you), I’ve done extensive research, and recommend at least a dozen follow up books if you too love this shit.  Check out Susan Frazier King’s book “Lady Macbeth” (local Maryland author too!)  But, moving forward, I have seen this play butchered.  I have sat through it and cringed.  I have swooned when something is done so well it pulls my heart strings.  And just so we are clear, you need to go see this production.

In case you slept through English class in High School, here’s the quick and dirty.  Macbeth is given three prophecies by witches, the last is that he will be King.  He is given another title minutes later and lets all of this go to his head.  When he tells his wife, she concocts a plan to murder the King and take the crown for themselves.  After that little deed, they find themselves plagued by other murders and people of suspicion (“I am in blood stepp’d in so far that should I wade no more returning were as tedious as go o’er). Hubris is a bitch, and Macbeth becomes greedy, he seeks more prophecies but the witches toy with him this time and lead him to his demise.  Lady Macbeth wracks herself with guilt, and everyone and everything he once loved and fought for slips through his fingers.  Classic Shakespeare- almost everybody dies, the end.

This adaptation uses lines from the text but they have been cut down to make room for the playlist.  As a high schooler during the early nineties, these songs were all my jam(s).  I wish I could remember every song on the playlist, but it is best I don’t give away all their secrets!  The Witch of Fire (Lexi Hauck), Witch of Earth (Lauren Jackson), and Witch of Air (Grace O’Keefe) are what is holding this piece down.  OH MY GOD!  You cannot take your eyes off of them!  First of all, their costumes by Allie Press are weirdly other-wordly while still being punk and 90s.  Their songs and voices are ethereal; I get why Macbeth cannot look away.  And their luring is top notch, along with their lurking- they pop up throughout the play to manipulate all the events occurring (more than I have seen in any other production).  Whether they are crooning “Running up that hill” or singing “Black Hole Sun” while throwing objects in their “cauldron,” they are the centerpiece to this production.  Ladies, you can take all the credit.  Seriously.

Not that the rest of the cast is too shabby.  The rest just seem, uneven.  There are some really tremendous performances sprinkled among a lot of actors who know their lines but don’t seem to know what they are saying.  They lack the emotion and understanding to make the words truly come to life.  This leaves the story line a little unbalanced in the production.  But at it’s heart, it is a rock show with some Macbeth interspersed.  There is a live band that did not miss a beat- Skappareoneday; consisting of Brandon Beatty, Sam O’Farrell, and Najee Banks (who double as some shady murderers).

This adaptation was done by Brenda Haupt, Glen von Haubritz, and Lianna von Haubritz.  I have to commend them on picking songs that seem to perfectly encapsulate the moment, from “Thunderstruck” as the battle begins, to “Doll Parts” when Lady Macbeth begins to come undone.  Utterly astonishing.  I think in places they could have clipped more of the script.  At times it seemed to drag a bit and be bogged down until a song kicked in.  The funniest to me is that they kept switching off the mic, like a concert, or some weird race with a baton being handed off.

Macbeth is Glen von Haubritz, and he has the look of a police chief, and a fine Macbeth.  I attended opening night, and I liked his commitment to the role.  I was sadly disappointed that he messed up a few lines I think are key to the part, and was more impressed with his swagger and singing than his ambition.  Lady Macbeth is Nicki Seibert and she is lovely to behold.  Her clothes and hair and singing voice are envious.  Her portrayal of Gruoch (Lady Macbeth)  though was a bit flat. A standout of the evening was Dean Whitfield as Banquo.  I loved him!  He was a fantastic new take on this classic role, instead of being in awe and rapt with Macbeth’s fortunes, he is instead a mall cop with an attitude, who is more pressed on his coffee than the things going on around him.  And another surprise- Leah Liotta as Hecate!  She snuck up on us from nowhere and was not only badass af in her leather get up but can belt it out too!  Queen of the Damned- well damn!

The cast is huge, so I am sure I missed a few, but here’s a short list.  Linus Owens is Macduff, a too good for his own good, tall and bespectacled man who is best at the bar when he is told his castle was surprised.  Lady Macduff, Brandi Elizabeth Brown, is a small part but with big heart as she fights for the life of her child.  Rita Padden as the gentlewoman also gets to attend to the party and push that hulking desk back and forth quite a few times.  Ari Eckley as Ross goes full throttle in every scene- whether lounging with leg over chair, or delivering news to the unfortunate.  Peggy Dorsey was a nice surprise as a lady Duncan, and her death scene all the more poignant by having to hold it at the edge of the playing space for what seemed like a long time, before being carted away.  Dorsey’s rendition of “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant was also a show piece of the scene.

The space is an old church gymnasium/auditorium and the some of the unglamorous surroundings tried to infringe on my viewing, but all in all, I was rather impressed with the use of space, the acoustics, and the general set design for this production.  The two tiered playing space with the witches stationary in the front really sealed the deal.  Those witches though, you don’t understand, I dreamt of them signing, they have consumed my thoughts.  “I dreamt again of the Weird Sisters…” I, like Macbeth, am considering seeking them out again- they are compelling and mesmeric, they are everything and more.  The band and the witches should on tour, and I for one would go see that show.

It is a fresh, new take on a classic and I welcome it with open arms.  Although the acting is patchy in places, and the adaptation needs a bit of touch up- the fight choreography by Phil Vannoorbeeck, the Band under direction of Carolyn Koch and Sam O’Farrell, the set and lighting by Patrick Youells, and the costumes by Allie Press make this a memorable experience that you don’t want to miss.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?  Go see this all encompassing, enchanting piece of entertainment.  Although rough in parts, the musical infusion is a jolt of modern that mixes well with the classic tragedy.  Grunge meets grievous and the result is stunning in its glory.  Pull out your concert tees and flannel, brush off those boots, and get down and get funky with the new age of modern classic.  Green Globe is rapidly making a name for themselves in the field of unconventional theater and I am here for all of it! (I)

Running time, a little over two hours with one intermission.  Running through March 9th at 141 S. Clinton Street.

 

 

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