If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

MACBETH" UNDER THE MOON IN NEW HAVEN


A brisk, straightforward rendering of Shakespeare's timeless classic "Macbeth" will play through the weekend at New Haven's Edgerton Park. This Elm Shakespeare Company production is a sturdy, user-friendly offering presented under near-ideal circumstances...as long as the weather cooperates!

 

Elm Shakespeare has steadily built an excellent reputation for the classics in their 17 seasons. Edgerton Park, itself, is a magical setting for outdoor theatre even if -- like me -- you tend to avoid alfresco theatrics whenever you can. But within the shadows of tall trees and encircled by the stars and moon above, the Bard's tale of ambition, madness and murder most foul couldn't be in a better location.

 

Elm Shakespeare's Founder and Artistic Director James Andreassi is a manly Macbeth, commanding the stage thoroughly with Marianna Bassham's fine, frantic Lady Macbeth his able partner in crime. Under Allyn Burrows well-paced direction, this "Macbeth" is relentless as its principle players go madly out of control, down a dark path never to return. The two intermissionless hours fly by.

 

There is strong support from theatre legend Alvin Epstein who takes the scene-stealing roles of the Porter and Doctor and proves there are truly no small parts. Memorable, too, is the well-spoken Lady Macduff of Sarah Grace-Wilson, Mark Zeisler's haunting Banquo and Joshua Wills' impressive Malcolm.

 

There are also some less than successful choices here. I wasn't enamored with the three witches whose hyperactive performances and blurry diction were more annoying than frightening and Colin Lane's mannered Macduff seems, at times, to be in an entirely different play. Finally, the presentation of Macbeth's head on a rolling cart at play's end causes unintentional laughter especially with an added coda that has the witches rolling it away into the darkness. Huh?

 

Minor complaints to be sure, however, since most of this "Macbeth" works very well indeed. Elizabeth Bolster, performing double-duty as costume and set designer, scores on both counts admirably (save for the strange Pocahontas outfit Lady Macbeth wears in the banquet scene). Jamie Burnett's masterful lighting is perfectly in tune with the moonlit atmosphere and Nathan Roberts original music is extremely effective, providing a forbidden and foreboding tone throughout. Well done.

 

"Macbeth" continues at Edgerton Park, 73 Cliff Street in New Haven through Sunday, September 2. Admission is free but donations are accepted. Bring a lawn chair or blanket to spread. Arrive early (it fills up fast) and picnic. For further information call 203.874.0801 or visit: www.elmshakespeare.org.

 

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.


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