Directed by Michael Kahn
Starring Patrick Page & Kelly McGillis.
The Shakespeare Theatre
450 7th St. NW; Metro: Red line, Gallery Pl./Chinatown
Aug. 31 to Oct. 24
Though Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is centuries old, director Michael Kahn presents a production that is fresh and very much his own. Kahn skillfully blends different artistic devices to recreate the Scottish Play for contemporary audiences. In fact, juxtaposition is the overriding theme of this production at the Shakespeare Theatre.
Kahn adheres to the original Elizabethan text and costume but incorporates new elements to heighten the emotional drama. Contrasted against the ornate costumes are sparse sets that are cold and industrial looking-like an Ikea-decorated warehouse. The music, too, is industrial-gothic sounding, at once impersonal and haunting. The artistic license Kahn takes with his interpretation of Shakespeare’s play is visually stunning and emotionally stirring.
Building upon Kahn’s direction are the play’s stars, Patrick Page (Macbeth) and Kelly McGillis (Lady Macbeth). Page and McGillis bring a ferocious emotional intensity to their roles in these two brilliant performances. Both separately and together, Page and McGillis catapult the erotic subtext of power and sexuality into the forefront of the play’s consciousness.
The juxtapositions of eroticism and violence, lust and power so expertly displayed by Page and McGillis breathe new life into “Macbeth.” Page carefully crafts the emotional journey of Macbeth’s downward spiral from war hero to maniacal tyrant. None of the irony is lost on the audience.
McGillis also enchants and frightens as she becomes completely absorbed in Lady Macbeth’s guilt. The emotions that Page and McGillis are able to convey-guilt, lust, greed, sensuality, madness-make “Macbeth” not only incredibly human, but incredibly fascinating.
The supporting cast members are wonderful in portraying those victimized by Macbeth’s madness. Andrew Long (Macduff) and Glenn Fleshler (Banquo) stand out as important
figures in the plot development. Long and Fleshler carry the emotional weight of their betrayed characters well enough to show that they deserve to share the stage with Page and McGillis. The entire supporting cast enhances the tone of urgency mixed with tragedy as they provide emotional foils to the depraved Macbeth. Though this is a Luciferian fall from grace story, the victims of the megalomaniac do not go unnoticed.
All of the stars have aligned for this production of “Macbeth.” Michael Kahn took some artistic gambles and won, Macbeth and his Lady are hauntingly perfect and the ensemble proves to be up to snuff. The emotional depth and dimension of Kahn’s production is a credit to his vision and his actors’ talents. Raw and beautiful, “Macbeth” is this theatre season’s must-see.